McCarthy, Joseph R.

A political leader of the twentieth century. McCarthy, a Republican, represented Wisconsin in the Senate from 1947 until his death in 1957. He led an effort to identify communists who, he said, had infiltrated the federal government by the hundreds, although he never supplied any of their names. One of McCarthy's tactics was to establish guilt by association: to brand as communists people who merely had known a communist or who had agreed with the communists on some issue such as racial equality. His critics called him a demagogue who exploited people's concerns about communism. He was also feared, however, because of the mass of information he had put together on people in the government. The Senate censured him in 1954, saying that his actions were “contrary to senatorial traditions.”

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.