McCarthyism accusations are the last refuge of old Commies. As a dog returns to its vomit, old lefties reach for the security blanket of that ancient slur which is used to tar anyone who questions the left.
Once upon a time, Ron Radosh disavowed the left and its accusations of McCarthyism. But he now accuses a growing list of conservatives from David Horowitz to Stephen Bannon to Rich Higgins to Stephen Miller to a fellow named Daniel Greenfield of that primal sin of the left: McCarthyism.
McCarthyism is everywhere and in everyone. Except Ron Radosh, who was once accused of McCarthyism for breaking with the left, but has learned nothing from the experience.
That has always been the great irony of McCarthyism. It’s the lefties who were really guilty of the mindset that the slur represents. But it’s a particular irony now as posters pop up depicting President Trump in a Russian fur hat with a sickle and hammer. And Democrats accuse him of taking orders from Moscow. The lefties who claimed to be the victims of McCarthyism have become its perpetrators.
Rep. Ted Lieu accuses President Trump of taking orders from Vladimir Putin and walks around wearing a ‘Trump-Putin ‘16’ cap. Rep. Maxine Waters rants mindlessly about the “Kremlin Klan” on MSNBC. Rep. Quigley claimed on CNN that “when you meet with any Russians”, you’re meeting with Putin.
And Ron Radosh has nothing to say about this runaway leftist McCarthyism come to life.
Instead he has contributed to it by repeatedly trying to associate Stephen Bannon with Vladimir Lenin. Even as he accuses Trump supporters of McCarthyism, he also charges Bannon with Leninism.
There’s an illustration of Vladimir peering over Bannon’s shoulder while President Trump applauds in the article where Radosh first made the bizarre claim that Bannon, the former Breitbart boss and Trump strategist, had told him he was a Leninist. The claim was implausible and there was no evidence of it, but suddenly he was the talk of Morning Joe and showing up in the New Yorker. There were positive mentions in the New York Times. And even the Guardian and the New Statesman seemed forgiving.
It’s amazing what a little “McCarthyism” will do for your career.
That was Radosh’s first Daily Beast article. And also the last one that anyone paid attention to. In February, a desperate Radosh tried to dust off his Lenin smear by accusing Bannon of a “shout-out to a left-wing terror group”. By that he meant that Bannon had quoted Bob Dylan. “It doesn’t take a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.”
Radosh had actually created the kind of cartoonish McCarthyism that leftists imagined it to be in which quoting Dylan means that “Bannon is consciously revealing that he sees the Tea Party as the equivalent of a new revolutionary movement, that will play the same role as did the Weather Underground.”
McCarthy wept. So did Kafka and Orwell.
There’s a sad, comic absurdity in Radosh trying to stuff his old anti-Communism into Never Trumper garb and then peddle it to the media left. There’s only so many times you can accuse Bannon of being a secret Leninist. Once will get you discussed on Morning Joe. Twice is just tacky. And even a left that will swallow nearly any accusation about Trump has to roll its eyes at the Bannon-Dylan conspiracy.
Radosh’s dilemma is the classic problem of the Never Trumper. Beyond the cocktail party circuit, the only people who will listen are on the left. And his plight is especially sad. How do you sell Never Trump anti-Communism to the media left that hates Trump, but celebrates Communism?
And so, Radosh has no choice but to fit in with his new crowd by accusing conservatives of McCarthyism. Having failed at practicing actual McCarthyism, he has to turn left and accuse others of it.
Radosh’s behavior though is emblematic of Never Trumpers who hate Trump more than the left. And so they have nowhere to go but to the left. And for those who, like Radosh, were once on the left, turning Never Trumper allows them to revisit their old sins. It’s a slow, but inescapable process.
What does Radosh believe in except the evils of Trump? It’s hard to say. All other principles quickly fall by the wayside. And so he can pivot from McCarthyism to accusations of McCarthyism as long as he’s hurling both sets of accusations at President Trump and at his supporters.
Never Trumpers define themselves by what they are not. And by whom they hate.
Radosh’s writings reflect this obsession. There’s, “Do We Really Want Donald Trump’s Hand on the Nuclear Button?”, “Once Again, Donald Trump Reveals That He Is Not a Serious Candidate for President”, “Donald Trump’s Inexplicable Attack on Our Intelligence Agencies”, “Is Trump Responsible for Some of His Recent Troubles?”, “Time for Conservatives and Republicans to Stand Up to Trump” and “Trump’s Statements on Charlottesville Reveal a Deeply Flawed President at His Worst”. To name a few.
It’s a survey that suggests Radosh has gone from a serious intellectual to an anti-Trump tabloid.
But in all this heaving mass of sniffs, sneers and smears, what insights into Trump has Radosh uncovered? Can he explain how and why Trump is in the White House? Of course not. Radosh is part of a class of Never Trumpers whose analysis never moves beyond citing each other’s dismissive namecalling and outraged twittering at Trump’s very existence. It’s an echo chamber that echoes nothing except its own assumptions. Its anger is directed at reality for not reflecting them.
Many Never Trumpers regard themselves as being politically on the right, but culturally they are part of a milieu that has far more in common with the left than with the right. Their world is one in which Trump should stick to building hotels and his voters should listen when the smart people are speaking.
Radosh no longer believes in anything except the privileges of that class. It’s what unites the “resistance” of elites on the left and the right. Beyond politics, Trump just doesn’t belong. He’s tacky, vulgar and – because he disagrees with them– stupid.
And that matters more than any mere issue. Class has become the supreme issue.
And so Radosh harnesses his Communist and anti-Communist background to alternate between accusing Trump and his supporters of Leninism and McCarthyism, of Communism and anti-Communism. The inconsistency of the accusations doesn’t matter. Personal anger has a logic that transcends politics.
The outlets most in the market for anti-Trump screeds are on the left. And they will only have so much interest in listening to tales of Bannon’s secret Leninist tendencies and Weathermen sympathies. And so Radosh will have to give them what they really want by reaching for the tainted agitprop of the left.
Bannon, Horowitz and Miller are guilty of McCarthyism. Eventually Trump will become a fascist. Conservatives will become reactionary bigots. And then the sad circle will close all over again.
Communists who turned back from the abyss had that moment in which they realized that they were wrong. For Radosh, it was the Rosenberg case. He realized that despite the widespread conviction in his social circle that they were innocent, the spies were actually guilty. It takes a great act of courage for a man to recognize that he was wrong even when the proof is staring him right in the face.
“If they choose the populist Trump, there will be a landslide for Hillary Clinton come Election Day,” Radosh predicted in an article titled, “How the GOP Is On the Road Towards Certain Defeat”. Next month, he insisted that, “Hillary is the lesser evil”. The rest is tediously predictable. Trump is terrible. The GOP is doomed. Everything is Trump’s fault.
What Radosh doesn’t do is come to terms with the fact that he was wrong and that his certainty of how the world worked proved to be as illusory as it was during his Communist days. Instead, like the rest of his class, he rushes to reassert a false certainty that was already as disproven as Communism. But echo chambers don’t create reality. They only provide a hollow and ultimately unsatisfying reassurance. The frantic Trump hit pieces are futile. Ultimately they aren’t designed to hurt Trump, but to reassure the true believers that their erroneous course is still the right one no matter how much reality disagrees.
The difference between conviction and fanaticism is that the ability to admit that you were wrong. It takes great courage to be able to do it once. It would take even greater courage to do it twice.