Senator Joe McCarthy, Demagogue, New Biography Looks at His Life

Jul 8, 2020

Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy

These days, there is a lot of talk about the demagogic style of President Donald Trump. Historian Reinhard Luthin defined a demagogue as “a politician skilled in oratory, flattery and invective; appealing to the passions rather than the reason of the public; and arousing racial, religious, and class prejudices.”

Republican Senator Joe McCarthy was embodiment of most of these traits.  McCarthy was the catalyst behind the  Army–McCarthy hearings. He is known for alleging that numerous communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers had infiltrated the United States federal government, universities, film industry , and elsewhere. 

People across the country were riveted to the wall to wall television and radio coverage of these hearings in 1954.  Here is Senator McCarthy at one of those hearings in the spring of 1954.

Ultimately, the smear tactics McCarthy used led him to be censured by the U.S. Senate. Larry Tye is the author of new book called, “Demagogue: The life and long shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy.”  Tye says while Trump and McCarthy had very different backgrounds, they both have become known as demagogues and sometimes, bullies.