In the March, 1952 issue of Commentary magazine, Irving Kristol gave the best explanation for the continued appeal of Joseph McCarthy and his anti-communist investigations.
For there is one thing that the American people know about Senator McCarthy: he, like them, is unequivocally anti-Communist. About the spokesmen for American liberalism, they feel they know no such thing. And with some justification.
“'Civil Liberties,' 1952—A Study in Confusion”
The American people had good reason to distrust the spokespeople for American liberalism. By 1952 there was plenty of evidence that communists agents had operated in the heart of government for two decades. The testimony of Krivitsky, Chambers, Gitlow, Gouzenko, and Bentley had laid it all bare. Yet liberal leaders and ex-New Dealers continued to stridently deny this manifest truth.
Kristol pointed out that by denying the obvious, those leaders were helping to make McCarthy's case for him.
The rise of Joe McCarthy was propelled, in large part, by the refusal of progressives and New Dealers to admit to any mistakes. Having claimed that social scientists and academic experts were better guides than the Founding Fathers, they were now revealed to be inept at the most important obligations of government.
Mr. Biddle, like Mr. Barth, refuses to admit what is now apparent: that a generation of earnest reformers who helped give this country a New Deal should find themselves in retrospect stained with the guilt of having lent aid and comfort to Stalinist tyranny. This is, to be sure, a truth of hindsight, an easy truth. But it is the truth nonetheless, and might as well be owned up to. If American liberalism is not willing to discriminate between its achievements and its sins, it only disarms itself before Senator McCarthy, who is eager to have it appear that its achievements are its sins.
In short, McCarthy and other congressional investigators were an existential threat to their public standing and newly acquired power.
Any very public housecleaning of the Washington penetrations would have handed the populist right an all-too-powerful blunt instrument for attacking Yalta, containment, and their own position in power.Double Lives