1955 August 12

A.D.A. Head Proclaims “End of the McCarthy Era”


Joseph Rauh, chairperson of the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) on this day proclaimed the “end of the McCarthy Era.” The Senate had censured Senator Joe McCarthy eight months earlier, on December 2, 1954, and his influence had declined dramatically. Rauh referred to the national political climate of 1953–1954 as “the darkest days of the demagogues.” His declaration of the “end” of McCarthyism was a bit premature, however. Senator McCarthy’s personal influence had declined, but anti-Communism remained a powerful force in American politics for many years.

The ADA was a centrist group of liberal Democrats that had been formed in 1947 to advocate both a strong anti-Communist position abroad and at home. For several decades, Rauh was an extremely influential advocate of civil liberties and civil rights.

Senator McCarthy dominated American politics for five year. His downfall began on March 9, 1954, when Edward R. Murrow broadcast a critical television report on him and his tactics, relying largely on his own words. The program is regarded as one of the most famous in the history of television. The Senate finally condemned McCarthy on December 2, 1954 for his conduct, and his influence quickly waned. “McCarthyism” as a political movement lived on for many years, however.

Today, many people use the term “McCarthyism” as a shorthand for the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War. But in fact, the anti-Communist movement began on March 21, 1947 with President Harry Truman’s Loyalty Program, three years before McCarthy burst onto the scene.

Learn more about McCarthy and “McCarthyism”: David Oshinsky, A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy (1983)

Learn more about Joseph Rauh: http://uscivilliberties.org/biography/4343-rauh-joseph-l-jr-19111992.html

Watch a documentary on McCarthy, Point of Order: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EhOdSSI8n4

Learn more about McCarthyism: http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/joseph-mccarthy

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