We Need Reagan, Not McCarthy

By Robert Wallace
America’s Right

Renowned American historian Richard Hofstadter published an essay called The Paranoid Style in American Politics in Harper’s Magazine in 1964. Clearly, this essay–in many ways a rebuke of Goldwater–is not going to win friends and influence people here at America’s Right. And that’s okay. Hofstadter was wrong to write off Goldwater as a right-wing extremist, and he was wrong to write off McCarthy as nothing but a witch-hunter. The Verona papers prove conclusively the extent and depth of Soviet penetration into United States society. Just this week, news broke that documents reveal liberal journalist hero I. F. Stone was yet another KGB mole.

The importance and relevance of this essay is two-fold. First of all, it establishes the pattern for how society has dealt with movements that have been labeled conspiracy theories — whether they were fairy tales or fact. But, more importantly from a conservative perspective, it places current fears of Obama into a historical context.

It is of vital importance for Americans–who are justifiably proud of the ideals emblazoned in honor during the American Revolution–to keep in mind the horrifically divergent path which the French Revolution took. In America, religious freedom, peace, prosperity, and a stable democratic republic resulted. In France, it was intolerant secularism, bloody slaughter, war, poverty, and an absolute autocracy which resulted. Those who seek the allure of a tabula rasa in another American Revolution–whether they entertain the use of force or not–must be reminded of what a dangerous venture they embark upon. To rebel is, of necessity, to decimate the current social order.

One of the greatest failings of liberalism is that they focus only on the faults of a capitalist system. The unjustice not addressed, the endemic poverty that remains. They turn a blind eye to the prosperity, equality, liberty, and rising standard of living for all that have been the benefits of capitalism, and so seek to either destroy the goose that lays the golden egg (Marxist socialism) or to enslave it to a pernicious, benevolent tyranny (socialism lite). In fact, as Milton Friedman argued, it is actually the success of capitalism that leads to liberal attacks on it. It is only because capitalism is beneficial to so many that the tragedies which have always existed are thrown into stark contrast.

If we as conservatives call for any kind of a revolt without fully weighing the good which remains in American society, have we not committed the same type of error? Yes, we have a mainstream media that is complicit with the Obama administration. But this complicity is not an example of authoritarian state controlling the media, but of complicity among consenting individuals with ideological common ground supported by the American people voluntarily paying for those newspapers. Yes, we have a dishonest administration that has misled the American people with respect to their ultimate aims and principles, but since when was political dishonesty grounds for revolution? The appropriate response to politicians who lie is to–from among the middle class–present a viable alternative to hold that office.

Too often we make excuses–conservatives and liberals alike–for why we can not change the status quo. Only the wealthy can afford to run for office. Only the politically connected can run for office. Only those with name recognition can run for office. These are all self-fulfilling, fatalistic prophecies. Mike Huckabee got his start as a pastor. Sarah Palin as a hockey mom.

The real problem in America today is neither corrupt politicians, nor lobbyists, nor a biased media. The real problem is a cynical and disengaged public. It is the duty of private citizens and not the federal government to enforce the principles of the American Revolution, and yet we as a nation have failed in our duties. Before anyone can talk seriously about revolution, we need to see American conservatives literally flooding the electoral system at every single level — from the school board to the presidency.

And let’s be realistic: if we cannot organize a movement to attempt to take back the GOP using the system in place, we have neither the moral right nor the practical capacity to pull off any kind of revolution whatsoever. What some may see as the spirit of 1776, I see as American modernist consumerism — don’t bother to fix it, just buy a new one.

Americans on the left and right have cried “Conspiracy!” in response to Catholics, immigration in the 18th century, Mormons, Freemasons, Illuminists, Jesuits, Communists, and now Socialists. How many of these threats were as real as imagined? Do you fear Joseph Smith and his hypnotic powers? Do you lock your door and keep your gun loaded to keep the Jesuits at bay? Even when we’ve been right, we were wrong. Sure, the Soviets had a concentrated effort to corrupt American society through left-leaning sympathizers. But it never reached the bleak levels that Senator McCarthy railed against:

How can we account for our present situation unless we believe that men high in this government are concerting to deliver us to disaster? This must be the product of a great conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. A conspiracy of infamy so black that, which it is finally exposed, its principals shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men.…What can be made of this unbroken series of decisions and acts contributing to the strategy of defeat? They cannot be attributed to incompetence.…The laws of probability would dictate that part of…[the] decisions would serve the country’s interest.

Where was that “great conspiracy?” It never existed. Not on that scale. Perhaps Senator McCarthy would have had more success with mainstream America if he had kept his views more realistic: the Soviet government is recruiting useful idiots to sow confusion and dissent and weaken American resolve. And what was the final solution to this menace? Trials and secret police? No, it was the election of an optimistic conservative who had the willingness to stand firm against the evils of Communism abroad — not persecute moronic political tools at home. The solution was not to destroy the threat, but to counter it with a greater positive force of our own.

Now we face a threat that, I believe, is greater than anything the Soviets ever had to throw at us. And it is a threat from within instead of without. It’s our job to learn from the lessons of the past.

First of all, conspiracy theorists are wrong far more often then they are right, and we must acknowledge the reasonable American (and conservative) skepticism that results.

Secondly, even when conspiracy theorists are more or less correct, they tend to sabotage their own claims through exaggeration. As a key point, consider that the vast majority of people on both sides of the political spectrum will not believe that Obama’s service initiative is going to involve a bunch of brown-shirts armed with rifles, body armor, and armored cars to break down the doors of every Tea Party participant and drag them off to detention camps. To the vast majority of people, that’s crazy talk. Of course, that does not mean the service initiative isn’t an affront to American principles. Of course it is. To get our point across, we must argue against it, point-by-point, rather than drum up outrage in a select few through incendiary rhetoric.

Instead, our response to these measures should be patterned on the successful approach of optimistic, positive efforts rather than pessimistic, negative action. We need to be proactive instead of reactive. We need Reagan, not McCarthy.

Robert Wallace has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.



  1. Linda says:

    Believing in the Second Amendment and reprsenting a large group of gunowners who also believe in the same, I have begun a Second Amendment Alert email group through which I have been keeping my readers aware of what’s going on in that respect. Your article deals directly and succintly with what I have been trying to tell them all as they spend their time just passing infuriated emails back and forth.

    Congratulations, Robert. This article is very well written, researched, thought-out, and presented. Hopefully this article will get the exposure it deserves and will be taken to heart by its readers. I, for one, will be referencing it in my email alerts, as I have already made my readers aware of http://www.americasright.com and the rationale contained therein.

    Thanks again. Now on to 2010.

  2. Gail B says:

    Great thinking again, Robert. You keep us on the “Right” track!

    Of interest to veterans, a letter from Walter Jones (R-NC):


    Military Organizations Announce Support

    Washington, D.C. – At a press conference today on Capitol Hill, U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC) and Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) were joined by representatives from the National Association for Uniformed Services (NAUS), the National Military Family Association (NMFA), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA), who announced their support for H.R. 1701: PTSD/TBI Guaranteed Review for Heroes Act. The bill has also been endorsed by Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Marine Corps League.

    Introduced by Congressman Jones on March 25, 2009, H.R. 1701 aims to address problems that arise when service members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) are not properly treated and subsequently self-medicate or experience changes in behavior that lead to serious legal issues and the threat of separation from their service without benefits or treatment.

    Provisions of the PTSD/TBI Guaranteed Review for Heroes Act would:

     Create a special review board at the Department of Defense for service members who were less than honorably discharged. Separated service members would be permitted to seek a review of their discharge if their PTSD or TBI was not taken into consideration. The board would be authorized to change the characterization of discharge to honorable; and

     Mandate a physical examination board before an administrative separation proceeding for active duty service members if the service member has been diagnosed with PTSD or TBI by a medical authority. If the service member is found unfit for duty, then the service member would be retired and given a disability rating. Otherwise, the separation board must consider the effects of PTSD/TBI on the service member’s conduct.

    “Our nation has asked many of its military personnel to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan and, unfortunately, many of these service members are returning home with symptoms of PTSD and other mental health challenges,” Congressman Jones said. “A 2008 study by the RAND Corporation found that nearly 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have symptoms of PTSD or major depression. This study also found that many service members say they do not seek treatment for psychological illnesses because they fear it will harm their careers. If our government and the military fail to address problems associated with PTSD, the situation will only grow worse in future years.”

    NMFA Deputy Director Barbara Cohoon said: “Service members may have residual hidden wounds following their combat tour. These conditions can go undetected by the service member and undiagnosed by their health care provider when leaving the service. Our association believes service members should not be discharged without first undergoing a screening for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI); however, this is not being done consistently across services. Your call for a referral to a physical evaluation board following detection will ensure our service members and their families are being treated fairly during the discharge process.”

    MOAA President VADM Norb Ryan said: “One of the tragedies imposed by wartime requirements for repeated, extended-duration combat tours is that undiagnosed PTSD/TBI conditions have contributed to adjustment problems, alcohol or substance abuse, and/or disciplinary action against many service members who exhibited no such difficulties before being deployed. MOAA supports passage of H.R. 1701 and is grateful for this important initiative to ensure fair treatment for service members struggling with physical and psychological effects of extended and repeated combat deployments.”

    NAUS Legislative Director Rick Jones said: “NAUS shares your concern about instances of military members struggling with traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) receiving a punitive discharge stemming from military court martial action. One would like to believe these cases are fully investigated, but without an independent review there is no way of knowing.”

    AFSA Chief Executive Officer Richard Dean said: “This legislation recognizes the extraordinary impact of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries on those who serve this nation. It also recognizes that such injuries can definitely impact the performance and behavior of an individual. Should a discharge be less than honorable without considering either of these conditions, it is only right that the discharge should be reviewed for propriety. The bill’s emphasis on review prior to separation and full consideration of medical conditions would serve to protect the benefits to which the member is entitled.”

    “The PTSD/TBI Guaranteed Review for Heroes Act is a courageous measure that would bring justice to so many of America’s struggling wounded warriors and their families,” said Congressman Pascrell, the co-chairman of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force. “The effects and prevalence of PTSD and TBI are too severe and too widespread for our military leaders to overlook. Congress has a moral responsibility to ensure that every wounded warrior is discharged and reentered into society with the benefits they have earned.”

    Reps. Todd Platts (R-PA) and Gene Taylor (D-MS) are also cosponsors of the bill.

    For additional information, or to schedule an interview with Congressman Walter B. Jones, please contact Kathleen Joyce at (202) 225-3415.

  3. Rix says:

    I have a notion that it was my fatalism-tinted arguments that inspired you to another brilliant analysis. That alone, I feel, justified my arguing. :)

    I fully agree that there should be no new American Revolution unless and until national leaders arise who are on par with the people who charted the Constitution. Without such leaders, without their intelligence, political vision, steady leadership and moral compass, once the existing order is destroyed, the post-revolution society swiftly descends into another tyranny – or worse, into a chaotic dog-eats-dog bloodbath. For better or worse, no such leaders will likely present themselves any soon.

    I do not agree, however, that the existing political trends can be overcome by the sheer positive will alone. Never before, the threat to the American values had such a stable, powerful social base. This time, it is not a clique of conspirators, a religious sect or a military junta. It enjoys broad and unquestioning support of large (and growing) population groups that are well organized (much better that their opposition, for now) and have tangible financial interest in their cause.

    If you believe that the American society is strong enough to withstand such a threat, consider a well-known historic example. In 1917, Russian Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin vanquished the Czarist regime that existed for hundreds of years. Let me list some circumstances of that history-changing event:

    1) Their slogans called for equality, peace at any cost, and wealth distribution.
    2) They rode a wave of poverty and disillusionment caused by a poorly conducted war.
    3) Their main support came from an oppressed national group who had inborn grievance with the regime.
    4) They relied on well-organized urban minority with nothing to lose in the oncoming conflict.

    Doesn’t any of it sound familiar to you?

  4. Robert Wallace says:

    “Doesn’t any of it sound familiar to you?”

    As I’ve once heard said: “You can prove anything by analogy”. If you really think that mainstream America and our traditional principles have anything in common with czarist Russia – either in the value of those principles or the passion with which Americans honor those principles – then that alone explains our different perspectives on the future of this country.

  5. Linda says:

    You are correct Rix. It is a combination and those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. I, for one, fear the bloody repetition.

  6. Rix says:

    Robert, the example I provided was only to show that a political movement that strives to supplant the existing regime does not have to represent a majority; having staunch support of certain population groups and lulling some others with well-worded slogans works as well. That is, I believe, where the analogy was.

  7. Robert Wallace says:

    “Robert, the example I provided was only to show that a political movement that strives to supplant the existing regime does not have to represent a majority; having staunch support of certain population groups and lulling some others with well-worded slogans works as well”

    It worked in a nation full of subservient citizens long accustomed to autocratic, centralized rule by the elite.

    Your hypothesis is that it will work equally well in the United States where we have a strong tradition of equality, self-determination, and a legacy of rebellion against tyranny.

    So once again: your analogy depends on the average US citizen being exchangeable with the average Russian from czarist Russia.

    And once again: if you think that this is true about Americans there’s no need to look further to find a source for our divergent opinions about the future of this country.

  8. Robert Wallace says:

    “the other half of “we” have just elected an openly Marxist uber-radical teleprompter reader who tramples the Constitution by his very acceptance of the post”

    First of all, having 1/2 the country stand for a strong “tradition of equality and self-determination” separates us rather decisively from czarist Russia, don’t you think?

    And if this is so then, regardless of the rest of this particular post, I’ve made me point regarding your analogy.

    However, it’s not true that the country elected an “openly Marxist” anything. They elected a man who – in response to a qusetion about whether he’s any kind of a socialist – asserts the question can’t be taken seriously. They elected a man who gave speeches that were inseperable from patriotic centrist rhetoric. They elected a man who spoke of bipartisanship.

    In short – they voted for an American leaeder who reflected a “strong tradition of equality and self-determination”.

    What they *got*, however, was a closet socialist. My entire take on the Election of 2008 was to call it “The Great Con of 2008″.

    Even to this day Obama polls high (60% or more) and his policies poll low (as I’ve given ample evidence of).

    It’s absurd to take modern American citizens for czarist Russian subjects, and it’s absurd to assume that they knew what they were getting when they voted for Obama.

    They didn’t.

    That’s the whole point of a con.

  9. Rix says:

    > Your hypothesis is that it will work equally well in the United
    > States where we have a strong tradition of equality,
    > self-determination, and a legacy of rebellion against tyranny.

    "We", meaning yourself, Jeff, possibly me and a few others, do indeed have a strong "tradition of equality and self-determination", but the other half of "we" have just elected an openly Marxist uber-radical teleprompter reader who tramples the Constitution by his very acceptance of the post. As for the "legacy of rebellion", weren't that you who so eloquently discouraged it in your next post?

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