As World War II came to a close, with imminent allied victory, differences surfaced between the Americans and the Soviets. The democratic United States and the Communist Soviet Union became engaged in a series of largely political and economic clashes known as the Cold War. Major issues that separated them included:
- The impending government of Eastern European countries
- Economic reconstruction
- Germany’s future
- The Atomic Bomb
- Soviet’s sphere centered around their borders
- The U. S. centered around Western Europe
The cold War affected domestic policy several ways: socially, economically, and politically. Socially, the intensive influence of the American people led to regression of social reforms. Economically, enormous growth spurred by industries related to war was aided by heavy government expansion. Politically, by the 1950’s the New Deal reforms were often associated with the left and its advocates were attacked for promoting programs close to the realm of socialism. Anti-communist ideals became the norm, particularly for those in government. Any promotion of cooperation with communist states was enough to mark a person for persecution.
McCarthyism was a name given to the period of time when Joseph McCarthy, a senator from Wisconsin, produced a series of investigations and hearings in an effort to expose supposed communist infiltration of various areas of the U. S. government. What it turned out to be was a means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations based on unsubstantiated charges. He made false accusations in the State Department and the CIA. He failed to make a case against anyone, but managed to drive some people out of their jobs and brought condemnation to others. He created a political powder keg.
The Red Scare was the United States perceived threat posed by Communists. Communists were often referred to as the “Reds” for their allegiance to the red Soviet flag. It had a negative effect on the U. S. government and society. Federal employees were analyzed to determine whether or not they were loyal to the government.
J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI aided many of the legislative investigations of communist activity as well. He helped build a case against Julius Rosenberg and his wife, Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of espionage in 1951 and executed two years later. He even equated the civil rights demonstrations with communist subversion. Even the Supreme court avoided disagreement with the President or military during this era, due to fear of reprisal.
All of these actions created an atmosphere of fear and dread for the American People. Looking at the government today, with the emphasis on building this wall at any costs, has created so much uncertainty and apprehension with regards to our failing economy, that all of us are wondering what is going to happen next!
I believe a lot of what happened, was because the system of checks and balances were unsuccessful. McCarthy should have never had as much power to cause so much fear and unrest in the American people. One person, having the ability to ruin another persons’s life, based on conjecture, should never be an option!
Editors, H. (2010, June 01). Red Scare. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/red-score
Achter, P. J. (2019, April 09). McCarthyism. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/topic/mccarthyism
Historical analysis of the Cold War. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ehistory.osu.edu/articles/historical-analysis-cold-war (Links to an external site.)
Keene, J., Cornell, S. & O’Donnell, E. T. (2013). Visions of America. A History of the United States (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.