‘Genuine Civil War Potential’

Matthew Continetti

The Washington Free Beacon | 2018

“What McCarthyism was really about, Kendall said, was the ability of society to uphold ‘a hard core of shared beliefs’ by excluding ‘ideas and opinions contrary’ to its self-understanding. McCarthy, in his view, was defending the traditional American consensus not only against Communists in government, but also against liberals, who view America as ‘a society in which all questions are open questions, a society dedicated to the proposition that no truth in particular is true, a society, in Justice Jackson’s phrase, in which no one can speak properly of an orthodoxy—over against which any belief, however immoral, however extravagant, can be declared heretical and thus proscribed.’ It was this clash of fundamentally opposed understandings of American democracy that propelled McCarthy to the center of politics and endowed the controversy over his public career with ‘genuine civil war potential.'”

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