McCarthyism: The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History

By Albert Fried | Go to book overview

10
A Measure of Redress

1

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, resistance to McCarthyism began picking up momentum in the mid-1950s. How much McCarthy's disgrace figured in the resistance it would be impossible to say; the effect may have been subliminal. But one can also argue that his disgrace, by enabling America to smugly convince itself that it could discipline a political bully and lout, may actually have legitimated the deeper institutional expressions of McCarthyism and therefore made it even harder to resist.

Be that as it may, resistance did emerge, especially from the Supreme Court. How this happened is a study in unintended consequences, in the fortuitousness of history.

In his first year in office President Eisenhower appointed California Governor Earl Warren as Chief Justice; without Warren he might not have gotten the nomination. He regarded the appointment as a cut and dry affair; Warren was the sort of moderately conservative politician he admired. There certainly was nothing in Warren's long record as a middle-of-the-road Republican to give him pause. The same could be said for another of Eisenhower's Supreme Court appointees three years later. His subordinates led him to believe that William J. Brennan, Jr., a New Jersey judge and a Democrat, could also be counted on to uphold the status quo. By Eisenhower's reckoning, Brennan proved to be the second biggest mistake he made as President, Warren having been the first. For both men promptly joined the inveterate dissenters, Black and Douglas, to

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