Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gabler Argues for "Joe McCarthy Gene" in GOP

Neal Gabler has a noteworthy op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times today in which he argues that there is "something deep in the DNA of the Republican Party that determines how Republicans run for office, and because it is genetic, it isn't likely to be expunged any time soon." He calls it the Joe McCarthy gene. Gabler's basic premise--and it's a solid one--is that McCarthy is much more a founding father of contemporary conservatism than was Barry Goldwater.
"McCarthyism is usually considered a virulent form of Red-baiting and character assassination. But it is much more than that. As historian Richard Hofstadter described it in his famous essay, 'The Paranoid Style in American Politics,' McCarthyism is a way to build support by playing on the anxieties of Americans, actively convincing them of danger and conspiracy even where these don't exist."
The paralells to the present are obvious and Gabler isn't making any sort of new or radical observation. In recent years, the thesis finds support in, among other places, the increasing tendency among a growing segment of the right to try to rehabilitate Joe McCarthy himself. This year saw the publication of "Blacklisted By History" by longtime conservative writer M. Stanton Evans, yet another lengthy, error-ridden, misleading and false stab at McCarthy revisionism and yet again, it has received a great deal of "mainstream" attention in advancing a notion previously the province of the fringe of the fringe of the nut right.


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