How a Kindly Senator from Vermont Helped Save America From Fascism (But Only Temporarily)

And What Wisconsin (and America) can do to Shake off the Joseph McCarthy Curse

Gary G. Kohls, MD

“Joseph McCarthy is the only major politician in the country who can be labeled “liar” without fear of libel.”Joseph Alsop  

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205 names that were made known to the Secretary of State (Dean Acheson) as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.” Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy, February 9, 1950, Wheeling, West Virginia  

“If somebody would only smuggle me aboard the Democratic campaign special with a baseball bat in my hand, I’d teach patriotism to ‘Little Adlai’.” – Joe McCarthy, mocking 1952 Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson)  

"I call Marco Rubio, 'Little Marco’. That frightened little puppy couldn't be elected dog-catcher in Florida." – Donald Trump (mocking Republican rival Sen Marco Rubio during 2016 campaign)  

“Joseph McCarthy was a disgrace to Wisconsin, to the Senate, and to America" – William Proxmire, Democratic Party successor to McCarthy. (Proxmire was elected US Senator in a special election in August, 1954 and was subsequently re-elected by landslides 5 times {71% of the vote in 1970, 73% in 1976 and 65% in 1982}. In his last two Senate campaigns, he refused to take any campaign contributions, and in each campaign he spent less than $200 (out of his own pocket) — to cover the expenses related to filing for re-election and for return postage for unsolicited contributions. He was an early advocate of campaign finance reform.    

“There are significant analogies between the American fear of Communism during the McCarthy era and the American fear of Islam at the beginning of the twenty-first century.”  ― Ben Daniel

The Search for Truth about Islam: A Christian Pastor Separates Fact from Fiction   “You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.” – Donald Trump   

Not too long ago, a mild-mannered, 73 year old US Senator from Vermont rose to speak on the floor of the US Senate and introduced Resolution 261 (read it further below). The senator had reached the limits of his patience with a name-calling, mocking, free-swinging, demagogic, megalomaniacal, right-wing politician who had bamboozled thousands of Wisconsin voters to vote for him.   The name of the Vermont senator was Ralph E. Flanders, and the date was June 1, 1954.  

Flanders was a moderate Republican, and the name-calling politician who had bamboozled thousands of Wisconsinites to support him, was not Donald Trump, but Joseph Raymond McCarthy. Some Republicans back then were moderates and some of them agreed with Flanders that the far-right McCarthy was destroying the Republican Party while selfishly working to achieve his self-promoting agenda. And so, just like the candidacy of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders today, the courageous, likeable Vermont Senator Flanders spoke up when it was his duty to do so in order to save America from fascist influences like the infamous Friendly American Fascist, Joseph R. McCarthy.  

Flanders and Sanders were and still are simply following a critically-thinking, justice-seeking and independent-minded Vermont tradition. There must be something in the still pure water and pure air up there. Wisconsin - and my nearby state of Minnesota - still have relatively pure water and air in the northern halves of our states; that is, unless extractive and polluting industries like mining and industrial-strength pig farming industries have anything to say about it.  

As an aside, I should mention that recent studies have shown that the drinking water in the eastern, more conservative part of Wisconsin has been contaminated for an unknown number of years with the non-nutritive, toxic, metallic element strontium which has significant adverse effects. Those parts of Wisconsin are probably as contaminated with the agricultural toxins Atrazine and Round-up as are the agricultural parts of southern Minnesota, whose drinking water has been irremediably contaminated for decades with both toxic and carcinogenic pesticides. Those realities are worth speculating on since brain-altering chemicals can affect one’s health, IQ, personality, mental health, spirituality and politics.   But I digress. Back to Wisconsin politics and the on-going “Friendly” American Fascism.   Before relating what Senator Flanders did to save America from another rightward lurch toward fascism and demagoguery back in 1954, I include some more background to the story.  

The Late, Lamented, “Friendly” American Fascist, the Republican Senator from Wisconsin, Joseph R. McCarthy  

McCarthy was born and raised on a poor Wisconsin farm in a large, poor Irish Catholic family. After failing at chicken farming as a young adult, he got a law degree from Marquette University, a Jesuit college. After setting up what turned out to be a failed law practice, he served for two years in WWII and then, on returning home from the war, went into politics.   In 1946, he barely managed to get elected to the US Senate (by bamboozling Wisconsin voters to vote for him by campaigning on false stories of his “heroism” in the South Pacific - where he actually was a non-combat “desk jockey”). The major hurdle in getting to the Senate was his upset primary election victory over Wisconsin’s incumbent senator, the progressive Bob La Follette, Jr.   La Follette had been a pro-farmer/pro-labor Wisconsin Progressive Party US Senator, but the Progressive Party had recently been dissolved, so he had to run for re-election as a progressive Republican in 1946. Having been advised that it would be unnecessary to run an active campaign against the unknown – albeit cunning – right-wing upstart McCarthy, he was narrowly defeated by just 5,000 votes.  

McCarthy’s first three years in the Senate were uneventful, except for the fact that he fell in with a variety of nefarious corporate interests that included Texas millionaires, the sugar lobby and real estate interests. He also became known for his proclivity for betting on the ponies and stock market, and drinking too much.  

The Beginning of the Proto-Fascist McCarthy Era   O

n February 9, 1950, eager to make a name for himself, McCarthy finagled a speaking gig at a Women’s Republican Club/Lincoln Day event in Wheeling, West Virginia. In that speech he made the infamously false claim that he knew of the existence of 205 communists in Truman’s State Department.  

With that fake “revelation”, McCarthy suddenly began generating 24/7 media coverage from fawning right-wing newspapers, their reporters and their photographers, similar to how the media covers big city gangsters like Al Capone or narcissistic, megalomaniacal wannabe politicians like Donald Trump. Interestngly, McCarthy revised the 205 number down to 57 by the time he got back to Washington.  

McCarthy never made his fake list available to the public, just as our modern-day Republican McCarthy “look-alikes” like Ted Cruz or “act-alikes” like Trump.   As one example of the similarities between the current GOP candidates for president, Trump has refused to talk about any of the details concerning one of his biggest applause lines, promising to build a wall along the entire northern border of Mexico and then “make Mexico pay for it”.  

The entire world is laughing at a nation that will tolerate such delusional thinking.  

The Conservative Media Went Gaga Over McCarthy - for About 4 Dangerous Years  

The mainstream media (whose politics haven’t really changed much in the past decades) back in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt/New Deal era consistently favored conservative politicians and their anti-labor union, pro-business, pro-banking and war-profiteering interests by 5 to 1 margins, and they covered those issues and candidates in a similarly disproportionate fashion. One only has to recall the huge “Dewey Wins!!” headline on the ultra-conservative Chicago Tribune’s front page which President Truman proudly displayed the day after his upset win over the conservative Dewey in 1948.  

Starting with the Wheeling speech and buoyed by the overweening press coverage he was given free of charge, the narcissistic far right-wing senator from Wisconsin expanded his anti-communist agenda until he foolishly accused the US Army of harboring communists. It wasn’t long until the hard-drinking, hard-gambling, paranoid demagogue was exposed as a total fraud, and he was justly humiliated out of power.  

The final blow occurred on June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the televised Army-McCarthy hearings, when the chief counsel for the Army, Joseph Welch, ended his interrogation of McCarthy with the statement that finished the senator’s destructive political career. Here is Welch’s famous reproach of McCarthyism - and the fatal question (which “went viral”): “Have you no sense of decency?”  

Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel…If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty, I would do so. I like to think I'm a gentle man, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me…You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?”  

Following that truth-telling statement (that had been witnessed by millions), the press instantly lost interest in the spectacle of McCarthy, and the deluded, megalomaniacal senator drank himself to death over the next couple of years.   Partly because the discredited Republican Party had tolerated such a demagogue for as long as it had, the Democrats regained both the House and the Senate in the next mid-term election. (Justice sometimes does happen in politics, especially when a courageous person of influence such as Flanders does his duty.)   So, let’s go back to hear more about the Flanders/Sanders resistance against American Fascism.  

The Flanders/Sanders Connection: The Role of Independently Thinking Vermont Senators  

Even before the Army-McCarthy hearings began, Senator Flanders had been concerned that even war hero president Dwight D. Eisenhower (who actually despised McCarthy) seemed to be reluctant to confront the bullying tactics of “Tail-gunner Joe” (aka the “Pepsi-Cola Kid” - because of his early efforts on behalf of the soft drink corporation’s Big Sugar interests). So on behalf of the better nature of his party and calling McCarthy “a Dennis the Menace”, Flanders issued Resolution 261, which read as follows:  

“Resolved, that the conduct of the Senator from Wisconsin is unbecoming a member of the US Senate, is contrary to senatorial traditions and tends to bring the Senate into disrepute. Such conduct is hereby condemned.”   The GOP Habit: Fighting Communism with Fascism  

Two days later, as part of the senator’s continued efforts to persuade the GOP-dominated Senate to finally take action against McCarthy’s hysterical anti-communist witch-hunting, he appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and proclaimed to the nation what everybody in Washington already knew (but nobody dared to say out loud): McCarthy had become “the sole private eye, prosecutor, judge, jury and sentencer (of suspected anti-fascist, liberal, pro-democracy, so-called “communists”). This is so clearly in the direction of fighting communism with fascism that I am seriously disturbed.”  

Two months earlier (March 9, 1954), well before the Army-McCarthy hearings began, the respected Republican Flanders had spoken on the Senate floor, accusing McCarthy of trying to destroy the Republican Party. In the speech, Flanders proclaimed:  

“He dons his war paint. He goes into his war dance. He emits his war whoops. He goes forth to battle and proudly returns with the scalp of a pink Army dentist (google the “Irving Peress affair”). We may assume that this represents the depth and seriousness of Communist penetration at this time.”  

Wisconsin: What you can do NOW to Shake off the McCarthy Curse

  This next week is the run-up to the 2016 Wisconsin primary elections scheduled for Tuesday, April 5. Bernie Sanders is running not just for president of the United States. He is also running for the sustainable future for the planet and for people all over the earth. The rest of the world understands that.  

Bernie is arguably the most important politician coming from a number of independent-minded, justice-seeking, whistle-blowing senators (from Vermont or wherever), and he is coming off three impressive landslide victories over the center-right Wall Street and War Street-favored candidate Hillary Clinton in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.  

The mainstream media should be totally ashamed of itself for the way it has handled Bernie’s dramatic, ground-breaking news story.   Over the few days preceding the primary elections in those three states, there was absolutely nothing new to report from the Republican campaigns. The Brussels bombings had already been discussed, ad nauseum; but the 5 to 1 ratio held true to form.  

On the three Sunday morning network TV shows the day after Bernie’s dramatic victories, every panel member on every show was either covering Trump or Clinton or the campaign perspectives of Wall Street and War Street. Discussion about the Sanders campaign was shut out.  

Trump and Terrorism totally over-shadowed the real important news about the Sanders revolution. No TV network coverage of the amazing bird that hopped up on Bernie’s podium and looked at Bernie was shown. Even most of the late-night talk shows gave short shrift to Bernie’s campaign. The right-wing, crony capitalist stance of the corporate-controlled media again exposed itself.  

Wisconsin has an unusual checkered history of alternately producing or being governed by major Socialist Party politicians or Progressive Party politicians with occasional embarrassing lapses into being represented by or governed by right-wing, anti-labor, pro-corporate GOP politicians like Joseph McCarthy, Tommy Thompson, Scott Walker and Ron Johnson. The paymasters of all GOP (or Libertarian Party) anti-labor politicians have been big corporations, multimillionaires and billionaires who are seeking more privileges and wealth for themselves and less for the lower 99%.  

Every politician, from whichever party, that has been bribed-by-a-corporate-millionaire is expected to enact laws that lower the taxes, raise the profits and get rid of pro-environment, anti-pollution regulations that limit the profitability of the corporations and the millionaires that provided the bribery money.  

As an inevitable consequence of the corrupt campaign finance laws that are now in place since the Citizens United GOP-dominated Supreme Court decision of 2010 there will be increasingly fewer privileges, less financial security and less access to affordable health care for the poor and working classes who that will never be able to influence the already-bribed politicians – unless there is a return to integrity and morality of politicians like those that come out of Vermont and all-to-rarely come out of Minnesota and Wisconsin (Paul Wellstone and Russ Feingold, as two good examples).  

So, from one of your neighbors to the west, who loves Wisconsin almost as much as he does Minnesota, please be aware that a lot of progressive young Wisconsinites (and Minnesotans) are out there working for Bernie Sanders to be our nest President. Please tune in, watch one of Bernie’s heartfelt rallies on YouTube, let yourself “feel the Bern” and join the anti-fascist revolution.

  Dr Kohls is a retired physician from Duluth, MN, USA. He writes a weekly column for the Reader, Duluth’s alternative newsweekly magazine. His columns mostly deal with the dangers of American fascism, corporatism, militarism, racism, malnutrition, psychiatric drugging, over-vaccination regimens, Big Pharma and other movements that threaten the environment or America’s health, democracy, civility and longevity. Many of his columns are archived at


Here are some useful images and quotes that might be used to accompany the above article:            

”I am blessed to receive a word from God every day in receiving the scriptures and reading the scriptures. And God speaks through the Bible.” – Rafael “Ted” Cruz, II  

"I am a Christian first. I am an American second. I'm a conservative third. And I'm a Republican fourth. And I'll tell ya, there are a lot of Americans who feel the same way." – Rafael “Ted” Cruz   “I don't think it's government's job to find health care for people. I think it's the individual's job to find health care.” – Rafael “Ted” Cruz, II  

“I think President Obama is the most radical president this nation’s ever seen … And in particular, I think he is a true believer in government control of the economy and of our everyday lives. In my judgment, we are facing what I consider to be the epic battle of our generation, quite literally the battle over whether we remain a free market nation.” – Ted Cruz  

“There were fewer declared Republicans in the (Harvard) faculty when we were there than communists. There was one Republican. But there were 12 who would say they were Marxists who believed in the communists overthrowing the United States government.” – Ted Cruz 

  Joseph McCarthy was an Irish Roman Catholic who attended the Jesuit University at Marquette, WI. Ted Cruz is a Southern Baptist who attends First Baptist Church, Houston, TX. Here are some quotes from him:  

The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.” -- Joseph McCarthy  

“If somebody would only smuggle me aboard the Democratic campaign special with a baseball bat in my hand, I’d teach patriotism to ‘Little Adlai’.”   “Our job as Americans and as Republicans is to dislodge the traitors from every place where they've been sent to do their traitorous work.” -- Joseph McCarthy  

“The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because the enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest nation on earth has had to offer - the finest homes, the finest college educations, and the finest jobs in Government we can give.” -- Joseph McCarthy  

“Any man who has been given the honor of being promoted to general and who says, "I will protect another general who protects Communists," is not fit to wear that uniform, general.” -- Joseph McCarthy  

“Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity. The modern champions of communism have selected this as the time, and ladies and gentlemen, the chips are down — they are truly down.” -- Joseph McCarthy  

“I have here in my and a list of 205 names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.” – Joseph McCarthy _

Donald Trump is a Presbyterian and attends Marble Collegiate Church, Reformed Church in America, Manhattan, NY. Here are some of his quotes:  

"I'm a Protestant, I'm a Presbyterian. And you know I've had a good relationship with the church over the years. I think religion is a wonderful thing. I think my religion is a wonderful religion."   Trump on going to church:

"Always on Christmas. Always on Easter. Always when there's a major occasion. I'm a Sunday church person. I'll go when I can."   

"I believe in God. I am Christian. I think the Bible is certainly, it is THE book. It is the thing. I think religion is a wonderful thing. I think my religion is a wonderful religion."  

"The 'Art of the Deal' is second to the Bible. The Bible blows them away. There's nothing like it, the Bible."

"Two Corinthians, 3:17, that's the whole ballgame. ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, right? Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.’”

"Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness, if I am not making mistakes?" 

On the Sacrament of Communion: "When I drink my little wine -- which is about the only wine I drink -- and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed."

"Other people can have their holidays, but Christmas is Christmas. I want to see 'Merry Christmas.' Remember the expression 'Merry Christmas?' You don’t see it. You're going to see it if I'm elected."

"If I run and I win, I will be the greatest representative of the Christians they’ve had in a long time." Trump on the Mormon Mitt Romney: “He lost the 2012 election because many Christian voters were put off by his ‘alien faith’."

"There can be no discrimination against gays. I'm against gay marriage." Trump called Rubio a "frightened little puppy" at a rally and tweeted that same day that Rubio looked "like a little boy" onstage. He repeatedly referred to "Little Marco Rubio" during a campaign rally in Madison, Alabama.

"He can't be elected dog-catcher in Florida," "I call him, 'Little Marco’.”

“Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud"

“You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.” 

“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” 

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.” 

“If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’” 

“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.” 

“We need global warming; it’s freezing and snowing in New York!”