BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON | MAY 17, 2021
“As a republican, I say to my colleagues on this side of the aisle that the Republican party faces a challenge today that is not unlike the challenge which it faced back in Lincoln’s day. The Republican party so successfully met that challenge that it emerged from the Civil War as the champion of a united nation—in addition to being a party which unrelentingly fought loose spending and loose programs.”
Those were the words of Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith June 1, 1950, in the wake of what became the maniacal campaign of fellow Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy to purge Communist sympathizers from the Federal Government and the movie industry.
McCarthy encouraged bad behavior and perpetrated severe threats to our freedoms. He was the grandfather of cancel culture.
In her famous “Declaration of Conscience’ speech Smith dared challenge the intimidating McCarthy, warning against a Republican regime “embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty (that) would prove …disastrous to the nation.” Smith said “I do not want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory…it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people…”
Democrats produced their own version of a popular despot. Just a short two decades earlier they had to face down Huey Long, a corrupt, mean-spirited, and flamboyant Governor of Louisiana and US Senator. When once challenged on acting contrary to the Louisiana constitution, Long declared “I’m the Constitution around here now.” He caused a near riot in the State Capitol, and later was the target of an armed insurrectionist movement in response to his attempt to stay in office illegally. Lt. Gov. Paul Cyre, who earlier supported Long’s impeachment, took control of the state when Long was out of town. Long was assassinated in 1935.
The similarities between then and now are striking. It is a shame we do not learn from the events in our history that give us perspective and map for us the road ahead. Continue reading