T ROUBLED BY RACIAL warfare, burning cities, crime and domestic contention over the most unpopular war in the nation's history, Americans were tempted to recall the Fifties as a "placid" era, a period of great tranquillity presided over by a Dwight D. Eisenhower who, above everything else, ended a war and kept the peace. But, once again, nostalgia merely proved to be seductive and the manufacturer of myths. In reality, perhaps not since the time of the Alien and Sedition Acts and the battles over disunion and Reconstruction had Americans viewed one another with such distrust. The agitation of the era may have seemed less threatening because the leading forces, whether directed toward a modern version of "waving the bloody shirt" against the Democrats or resisting inevitable social and economic changes, were led not by dissenters, racial minorities or non-conformists but by those whose patriotism could never be questioned. The Republican succession brought a messianic drive to eradicate from Washington the corrupt "five percenters," halt the progress of "creeping socialism" and dislodge the disloyal from their sanctuaries along the Potomac.
The popular mood was hardly as disturbed about lingering Democrats in Washington as about disloyalty. That fear of war with the Soviet Union had actually declined since prior to the Korean intervention did not allay apprehensions about internal Communist subversion. The 73 percent in favor of the death penalty for traitors was matched by the number wanting communism taught in the public schools, mainly, of course, to warn about the "Communist menace." Gallup reported that three out of every four respondents opposed permitting even former