During the televised Army-McCarthy hearings in June 1954 Army counsel Joseph Welch famously asked that question of Sen. Joseph McCarthy after McCarthy brought up the details of a young lawyer’s past membership in a left-wing professional association accused of communism. We tend to recall the query as a narrative coup de grâce coming out of nowhere. But the “no sense of decency” line worked because most of McCarthy’s party, at that point, was finally done with him. The Army-McCarthy hearings were a product of President Eisenhower’s decision to try to curb McCarthy’s power. Bringing McCarthy down required the leveraging of moderate Republican distaste for McCarthy’s personality and methods, the novelty of the televised hearings, and a little bit of sexual panic....
The end of McCarthy, which we remember as so satisfyingly final, did not actually mean the end of McCarthyism. Anti-Communist crusading began before McCarthy took it up, and it persisted in various forms, perpetrated by politicians of both parties, long after he was censured in December 1954 and died in 1957. And if you look at some of McCarthy’s other populist political tools—his twisting of the truth, his hatred for “elitist” intellectualism, his insider-outsider “true American” rhetoric—it becomes clear that we’ve still got plenty of McCarthyism with us today.
Onion wrote those words, and that passage, in Slate in July, 2018. Almost exactly three years ago to the day, it is clearer still that we still have plenty of McCarthyism with us, after the Joe McCarthy+ of today has been beaten, thrown out of office, exposed as a full-time criminal grifter, and still controls his Party.
So when Joe Biden gave his voting rights speech yesterday at perhaps the safest spot in nearly the most Democratic city in the USA, National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, he knocked the Republican Party by name a few times. However, he was unable or unwilling to name names, ostentatiously avoiding the words "Donald Trump" or "President Trump" or "Trump."
He did, however, promise “We’ll be asking my Republican friends in Congress, in the states and cities and counties, to stand up, for God’s sake, and help prevent this concerted effort to undermine our election and the sacred right to vote. Have you no shame?”
"No, in fact, they don’t. And he knows it," writes Charlie Pierce, who is right about the first and, evidence suggests, wrong about the second. After all these years, Democrats still don't completely understand that Republicans, hard at work in states across the USA denying the right to vote and undermining democracy, do not work in the context of shame or guilt. It's not in their DNA, figuratively. Asking them for shame is akin to asking Calvinist Protestants about the Assumption of Mary or Roman Catholics about Limited atonement. It doesn't compute.
Seemingly unaware, Joe Biden asserts he will "be asking my Republican friends in Congress" and across the country to stand up for "the sacred right to vote." He demands they do it "for God's sake," which comes across to those "friends" only as a pitiful plea from a faux tough guy. He begs in the name of the Almighty for cooperation from a Party which (like he) recognizes only one god, but in its case a Queens millionaire.
Nor would Joe Biden utter the four-syllable word "filibuster," this a tactic which chokes off legislation which would ensure that sacred right to vote. He meanwhile remains committed to infrastructure reform, calculating that no one can be opposed to infrastructure and that Democrats in competitive states could use a win. However
You can’t declare that we’re facing the worst threat to democracy since the civil war, then go back to working your heart out for infrastructure instead of democracy. Please, somebody — 𝒂𝒏𝒚𝒃𝒐𝒅𝒚 — tell the president it’s 2021 and not 1991.— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) July 14, 2021
To President Biden, it's 1991 (or 1954). If he gets infrastructure legislation, there will be plaudits from the left and the center, traditional and non-traditional media, politicians and pundits alike. But if the Democratic Party fails to reform the filibuster and gain passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the We the People Act, Joe Biden and the country win the battle and lose the war.
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