Thursday, October 23, 2008

Witch Hunts in America: Making a Comeback?

I remember the election of 1994..

For the first time in 42 years, Republicans finally re-gained control that year of both houses of the US Congress. It was not since the election of 1952 that Americans gave them the majority and with it free reign to do their evil worst.

In 1994 I openly fretted and feared a swift return to the era of McCarthyism, HUAC, red-baiting and blacklisting Commie witch hunts that had long been the hallmarks of that party's Congressional agenda. They had been out of power for so long I was sure they were just itching to get back in there and pick up where they left off.

With the midterm election of 1954, after the Republican Senate had been driven to censure Joseph McCarthy for his outlandish pursuit of their extreme agenda, the country was finally pushed to the point of soundly routing them as the ruling party. Having seen the despicable things they are capable of, we kept their authority in check for nearly half a century. By 1994, however, we seemed to have either forgiven all that or been fooled into believing they had reformed their ways as a party.

When the country bought into the new Republican "Contract on America" and restored them to power 14 years ago, their first order of business was payback.

In the intervening years, as the minority party, they had suffered the humiliation of numerous scandals and defeats including Watergate, Nixon's impeachment hearings and his 1974 resignation in disgrace as well as the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v Wade. So it did not take long before they poured all their energy into taking down President Bill Clinton through impeachment and steping up their so-far unsuccessful campaign to re-criminalize free reproductive choice while stacking the Courts with far-right judges.

As bad as thing have gotten under Republican rule we can be thankful that they did not get further along in their hateful agenda over these last 14 years. As the country now seems to have reached the point of disgust with them once again, however, the worst of them seem to be spinning out of control desperately trying to save their asses.

One reason for their ultimate ineffectiveness in the current era has been the neo-con's need to couch their frankly fascist agenda in terms that do not explicitly rekindle the outrage that thinking Americans would recognize as the extreme language used by Joseph McCarthy and the House UnAmerican Activities Committee.

Back in the 50s you could still call a commie a commie.

But until very recently they have been cautious not to invoke the language and images of those televised hearings that blew the cover off their bogus witch hunts that finally brought on the demise of their party's rule. That sort of thing had fallen apart in 1954 after Joseph Nye Welch famously stood up and rebuked Senator McCarthy on the Senate floor. It was during one of McCarthy's typically extreme Senate hearings on supposedly "Anti-American" activities in the US military when Welch, head attorney for the Army, blasted McCarthy wih the remark, "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

While we no longer have a Joseph Nye Welch to stand up and shame the likes of Sara Palin and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, those two have been doing a good enough job of it themselves lately by shooting off their big mouths with McCarthyite rhetoric about "Real Americans" and the like.

Perhaps the Welch moment came this past week when several Republican big mouths crossed the line of decency and resorted to outright inflammatory labels like "Socialist" in reference to Barack Obama, Joe Biden and anyone else who doesn't toe their fascist party line. They have finally ripped the cover clean off the real Republican agenda in their desperate attempt to escape another routing and avoid 50 more years of exile after the upcoming election.

If you need one more reflection on famous quotes from American history in order to steel your nerves when you go to the polls in two weeks, remember the ominous 1935 quote from Sinclair Lewis who said, "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

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