Heather wrote another very good letter today with a bit of history regarding this very question. What Senator Margaret Chase Smith (another Maine hero) feared most has come true. I’m sure she is turning over in her grave.
This is an excerpt, click the link to read the whole article.
“Republican politicians eager to reclaim control of the government for the first time since 1933 fanned the flames of that fear. On February 9, 1950, during a speech to a group gathered in Wheeling, West Virginia, to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, an undistinguished senator from Wisconsin named Joe McCarthy claimed that he had a list of 205 communists working for the State Department and that the Democrats refused to investigate these “traitors in the government.”
The anti–New Deal faction of the party jumped on board. Sympathetic newspapers trumpeted McCarthy’s charges—which kept changing, and for which he never offered proof—and his colleagues cheered him on while congress members from the Republican faction that had signed onto the liberal consensus kept their heads down to avoid becoming the target of his attacks.
All but one of them did, that is. Senator Smith recognized the damage McCarthy and his ilk were doing to the nation.
On June 1, 1950, only four months after McCarthy made his infamous speech in Wheeling, Smith stood up in the Senate to make a short speech.
She began: “I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear…. I speak as a Republican, I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.”
Referring to Senator McCarthy, who was sitting two rows behind her, Senator Smith condemned the leaders in her party who were destroying lives with wild accusations. “Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism,” she pointed out. Americans have the right to criticize, to hold unpopular beliefs, to protest, and to think for themselves. But attacks that cost people their reputations and jobs were stifling these basic American principles. “Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America,” Senator Smith said. “It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.”
Senator Smith wanted a Republican victory in the upcoming elections, she explained, but to replace President Harry Truman’s Democratic administration—for which she had plenty of harsh words—with a Republican regime “that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation.”
“I do not want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny—Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.” *
* Margaret Chase Smith Republican Senator from Maine