President Trump revived the McCarthy era
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“I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American. I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to victory on the four horsemen of calumny-fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear,”

This is what the president should have said last week and should be saying now and anytime in the future when white nationalists and neo-Nazi’s invoke his name or party — with simple changes in gender and office. These are the words of the late Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican Senator from Maine. Smith was criticizing the tactics of her red baiting Republican Senate colleague from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy.

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McCarthy, like Trump, was a demagogue who would lie, slander and cheat to advance his political career. He used fear and innuendo in his fulsome campaign against many innocent and god-fearing Americans whose patriotism was questioned during the Cold War with the Soviets because they were liberal.

 

McCarthy was a divisive politician when the U.S needed a leader who could bring the country together during the Cold War with the Soviets. Now we need a leader who can bring the country together and Trump tears it apart.

The president's failure to bring Americans together after Charlottesville creates a crisis of confidence in his leadership. Trump has divided Americans at a time when the specter of racism requires a president who can unite Americans of all races.

Which brings us to Charlottesville.

Both sides do not share the blame for the violence in Charlottesville. Trump refuses to acknowledge that a Neo Nazi, James Alex Fields seemingly driven by hate and intolerance killed a brave activist and injured 19 other people. He ended the life of a young woman who was brave enough to march against racism.

Trump finally got around to criticizing racism and bigotry in his nationally televised speech Monday night. But he still hasn’t come around to call out the Nazis and members of the Klu Klux Klan who turned a peaceful protest into a nightmare.

The end of McCarthy’s long reign of terror ended when the U.S. Senate censured him. McCarthy’s undoing came because he lost the support of his fellow Republicans, like Smith. The end of McCarthy's jihad came when his accusations of communist infiltration of the U.S. Army backfired. Will Trump's indifference to racism effectively end his presidency?

Like McCarthy, hostile GOP reaction to the president’s comments on Charlottesville may dissolve whatever little credibility he retains. The president’s comments will further weaken the shaky support he has with congressional Republicans. Trump has alienated the members of Congress he needs to approve his legislative agenda and to stave off impeachment and removal from office.

Donald TrumpDonald John Trump20 weeks out from midterms, Dems and GOP brace for surprises Sessions responds to Nazi comparisons: 'They were keeping the Jews from leaving' Kim Jong Un to visit Beijing this week MORE is on shaky ground with the two politicians he needs most. Both GOP leaders of Congress openly criticized the president’s remarks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate passes 6B defense bill Poll: Kim Jong Un has higher approval among Republicans than Pelosi The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Outcry raises pressure on GOP for immigration fix MORE said, “There are no good Neo Nazis.” Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump digs in amid uproar on zero tolerance policy Mark Sanford’s troubles did not begin with Trump NY Post blasts Trump, GOP over separating families at border MORE tweeted “We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive.”   

Other congressional Republicans were just as critical. Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump plan to claw back billion in spending in peril McCain calls on Trump to rescind family separation policy: It's 'an affront to the decency of the American people' Senate passes 6B defense bill MORE’s (R-Ariz.) comment on the president’s remarks was “There’s no moral equivalency between racism and Americans standing up to defy hate and bigotry.” McCain and his Republican colleague from Arizona, Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSenate chaplain offers prayer 'as children are being separated from their parents' Romney backs Laura Bush on border: 'We need a more compassionate answer' Mark Sanford’s troubles did not begin with Trump MORE, were notably absent from the president’s rally in Phoenix Tuesday.

Other congressional Republicans were just as critical. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who also vied for the GOP presidential nomination last year was straight to the point. On the Today show, the Ohio governor said Trump’s reaction was “pathetic.” Kasich may challenge Trump for the Republican presidential nod in 2020.

The most telling comment came from Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottAnti-Trump Republicans better look out — voters might send you packing Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Fed nominees vow to rebuff pressure from Trump on interest rates MORE, a conservative Republican from South Carolina. Scott said the president’s remarks “complicate his moral authority.” The limitations the system of checks and balance place on the power of the president make moral authority a necessity for the chief executive

Remember these critics are the people who hold Donald Trump’s political survival in their hands.

These Republicans reflect mainstream public opinion. Only one out of four (28 percent) people in a Washington Post/ABC News poll approved of the president’s reaction to the tragedy in Virginia. Only one in 10 (9 percent) Americans think white supremacist views are acceptable. Sadly, the current occupant of the White House appears to be one of a small group of Americans who tolerate bigotry and racism.  

After Charlottesville, Joe McCarthy’s legacy of hate hangs over Trump’s presidency. But Heather Heyer’s memory will live on too. At her memorial service, Susan Bro said the end of her daughter’s life “is just the beginning of Heather’s legacy.”  Let’s hope that it is the start of her legacy is the end of Joe McCarthy’s.                       

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. (There is no relation to Trump adviser Stephen Bannon). He is also a senior adviser to, and editor of, the blog at MyTiller.com, a social media network for politics. Contact him at brad@bannoncr.com


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.