A Divided Union

Senator McCarthy and ‘Red Scare’

In 1950 McCarthy claimed to have a list of over 200 communists in the government. A Democrat Senator Millard Tyding claimed the charges lacked foundation. He in turn was accused of being un-American and lost his seat in Congress. Politicians began to see the potential of the ‘Red Scare’.

McCarthy was backed by the Republicans and they won the 1952 election.

After the election Eisenhower appointed him as head of the White House committee to investigate communist activists in the government.

President Eisenhower

Throughout 1952-53 McCarthy turned the committee into a political weapon targeting high profile political figures. He even accused General Marshall a friend of Eisenhower but the President did nothing unwilling to clash with McCarthy. Thousands of people’s lives were ruined by McCarthy. False accusations resulted in many being ‘black-listed’.


Not everyone approved of McCarthyism: he was attacked by many Senators, Hollywood stars, newspapers and TV. In 1954 he attacked the army with ridiculous accusations. He had become an alcoholic and was humiliated by the lawyer defending the army. All of his credibility was destroyed. He later died in 1957.

EFFECT -- Went against America’s sprit of freedom, many considered it as part of a yearning for traditional ‘American’ values. McCarthy’s influence lived on through other conservative politicians (for example in some southern states black Civil Rights were treated like communist organisations), Richard Nixon, one of McCarthy’s supporters became President in 1968 and in 1954 the Communist Control Act banned the communist party altogether.