Last Thursday was the 67th anniversary of Joe McCarthy’s Wheeling speech, in which he declared that the Democratic Party was “the bedfellow of international Communism,” working hand-in-glove with Stalin. Eight years later, Robert Welch circulated the broadside that would later be published as “The Politician,” in which he accused Eisenhower, the Republican president of the United States, of being a “conscious dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy.” For historians of conspiracy theory, these are high water marks of lunacy, but as I wrote in THE NEW HATE, they were neither the first nor the last times that a political party or even a president was or would be accused of subversion. All the way back in 1800, Jefferson had been said to be an agent of the Godless Illuminati. And as recently as 2012, Allen West, the Republican Representative of Florida’s Twenty-second district at the time, said that 78 or 81 members of the Democrats in the US Congress were members of the Communist Party.
“For many the American dream has become a nightmare,” Bernie Sanders said. And now with the ascendancy of Donald Trump, one of the oldest American fever dreams has become a banal reality.
Russia, of course, is no longer Communist, but it does make you wonder…. What will historians say about our present moment?