McCarthyism: the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. It also means "the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.
Consider the irony in the fact that the term defined above was coined to describe the tactics of a Wisconsin Congressman and very similar tactics are now being used against two Badger State Republican Members of Congress; Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Ron Johnson. Joe McCarthy's critics characterized him as paranoid, seeing "a communist under every bed." Those who should know better in the supposedly conservative media are now seeing a RINO (Republican in name only) under every bed. And what's frightening is how conservative listener's to my show are so quick to accept these baseless allegations. Let's start with the most recent smear effort, one against Ryan.
Breitbart reported that Ryan was negotiating a deal with the White House that would "keep Obamacare forever." Ryan's people adamantly denied such a deal was in the works. One of my listeners wasn't about to given Ryan the benefit of the doubt:
WHAT THE HELL IS HE DOING???????? Why would I or any other conservative support him in this effort??????? And don't give me the "trust me" he's ok soliloquy....
Similarly, listeners were quick to believe a an accusation that Senator Johnson was lying about what really happened in a closed door exchange with Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Three years ago Wisconsin conservatives could hardly believe they were blessed with the conservative triumvirate of Ryan, Johnson and Governor Scott Walker. Walker, so far, is the only of the trio who hasn't been labeled a RINO by conservative punditry. What has happened in those three years?
The short and incomplete answer is Obamacare. Republicans couldn't stop its passage and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts betrayed conservatives with a convoluted ruling that the law is constitutional. Conservatives realize what this law will do to the country and in desperation will accept any effort, no matter how futile, to stop it. And those who don't go along with those efforts are traitors to the cause. It's preposterous on its face, but it's sticking.
Cruz demonized as the "Surrender Caucus" anyone who didn't come along and some (not Johnson nor Ryan) demonized Cruz as a fundraising charlatan. Conservatives have for decades seen Republicans bend in compromise to the Left. As a result, they're convinced that's what Republicans who didn't agree with Cruz's strategy are doing now. Not only is this wrong, it's incredibly dangerous.
We now have Republicans fighting Republicans and Democrats are howling in laughter at the sight of it all. What's lost in all of this is the fact that this Civil war on the Right is all about tactics, not ideology. Ryan, Johnson and other Republicans under attack from the Tea Party Right have not sold anybody out; they want Obamacare gone as badly as anybody. The argument is over tactics and strategy. But because they won't tell conservatives what they want to hear, that there's a magic wand to wave away Obamacare, the rank and file is ready to believe the very worst that is said about them, absent any evidence at all that these allegations are true.
Take yourself back, if you can, to 2010. Can you imagine anybody challenging the conservative bona fides of Ryan or Johnson back then? I'm not talking about political pragmatism here, I'm talking about intellectual honesty. If you're a conservative who thinks either Ryan or Johnson are conservative sellouts, you're deluded. And perhaps it's time to take a step back and examine the region to which you've traveled in the past 3 years.