Two Eras and Some Victims
For many, the McCarthy era stands as the grimmest time in recent memory. Beset by Cold War anxieties, Americans developed an obsession with domestic communism that outran the actual threat and gnawed at the tissue of civil liberties. For some politicians, hunting Reds became a passport to fame or notoriety. It was the focal point of the careers of Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy; of Richard Nixon during his tenure as Congressman, Senator, and Vice President of the United States; and several of Nixon's colleagues on the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). Ordinary people responded to the anti-Communist fervor by reining in their political activities, curbing their talk, and keeping their thoughts to themselves. Perhaps the essential point is that there existed in Cold War America a broad anti-Communist consensus shared and seldom questioned by most liberals as well as conservatives, by intellectuals as well as plain folk.
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