Harold Pollack writes: Sixty-five years ago, America faced the challenge of a snarling demagogue, who captured the imagination of millions by fusing legitimate fears of an external enemy with the cultural, regional and demographic resentments of people who disliked the changing nature of our postwar country. Then, as now, a demagogue could draw upon widespread weariness with imperfect and occasionally complacent liberal leaders, important or petty security scandals, the grind of military stalemate in an inconclusive long war.
Then, as now, the demagogue benefited from apologists and enablers who privately wanted him defeated, but who would not take risks or bear political costs to openly confront him. Then, as now, his political adversaries were divided and hesitant in their efforts to formulate an effective response. Then, as now, parts of the Republican Party gave a vicious demagogue a congenial political home.
Of course, history doesn’t repeat itself. Donald Trump is no Joe McCarthy. For one thing, President Eisenhower and other Republican gatekeepers never allowed McCarthy near their party’s nomination for president. For another, America is a far more cosmopolitan and diverse nation today than it was at the close of the Korean War. [Continue reading…]