Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy

October 31, 2020
Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy

The definitive biography of the most dangerous demagogue inAmerican history, based on first-ever review of his personal andprofessional papers, medical and military records, and recentlyunsealed transcripts of his closed-door Congressional hearingsIn the long history of American demagogues, from Huey Long toDonald Trump, never has one man caused so much damage in such ashort time as Senator Joseph McCarthy. We still use "McCarthyism"to stand for outrageous charges of guilt by association, a weaponof polarizing slander. From 1950 to 1954, McCarthy destroyed manycareers and even entire lives, whipping the nation into a frenzy ofparanoia, accusation, loyalty oaths, and terror. When the publicfinally turned on him, he came crashing down, dying of alcoholismin 1957. Only now, through bestselling author Larry Tye's exclusivelook at the senator's records, can the full story be told.Demagogue is a masterful portrait of a human being capable ofinfinite evil, yet beguiling charm. McCarthy was a tireless workerand a genuine war hero. His ambitions knew few limits. Neither didhis socializing, his drinking, nor his gambling. When he finallymade it to the Senate, he flailed around in search of an agenda andangered many with his sharp elbows and lack of integrity. Finally,after three years, he hit upon anti-communism. By recklesslycharging treason against everyone from George Marshall to much ofthe State Department, he became the most influential andcontroversial man in America. His chaotic, meteoric rise is agripping and terrifying object lesson for us all. Yet his equallysudden fall from fame offers reason for hope that, given the rope,most American demagogues eventually hang themselves.