An Overlooked Reason for the Rise of Joe McCarthy.

An often overlooked cause for the rise of Senator  Joseph R.  McCarthy was the Presidential Election of 1948.  The Democrats won that year with President Truman pulling  a stunning upset.   In those days, or at least until 1980,  Republicans were a loose coalition with the Eastern Liberal Establishment vs the Western Conservatives.

As might be expected, this is an overall grouping only.   There was a smattering of Conservatives in the East and Liberals in the west.   Pittsburgh was the vertical divide of the two Republican Wings.  Conservatives, for 1940, 1944, and 1948,  generally agreed on their candidate-Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio.

Taft was conservative with some streaks of Liberalism.   He was one of great Senators in the history of our country.  Taft took stands on every issue based on his conscience rather than pubic opinion or PACs.   If there was a conflict between his  positions and the voters of Ohio,  Robert A Taft followed his own conscience.  He made many trips across Ohio, often facing hostile crowds, to explain his own vote.

I will detail some of his votes later but, for  now,  let’s consider the the Taft-Heartly Act of 1948. This law, passed over the veto of President Truman, was to curb abuses  in the power of labor  unions.  Due to the manpower shortages during the WWII, labor unions pretty much had their own way.   There was a series of crippling strikes which increased the cost of fuel in the post war period.

Senator Taft could have gone to Cincinnati and virtually any other city in Western Ohio.  They would have roundly applauded him and the media would have shown how popular he was.  This is what Ronald Reagan did during his eight years as President.  Instead Senator Taft prepared and preferred  to face hostile crowds in the Eastern Ohio cities of Cleveland,  Youngstown, Akron, and Steubenville.  There were death threats and his staff and friends urged him not to make any trips but to use indoor town meetings and radio to get his messages across.

Here Senator Robert A. Taft endured heckling and ridicule.  He remained calm and just wanted to be heard and to answer their arguments.  I don’t know if  Taft convinced anybody but there was no doubt of his courage and candor.

Senator Taft, the leader of the Western conservatives lost the nomination to Wendell Wilke in 1940 and to Thomas E.  Dewey in both 1944 and 1948.   Let’s look at the 1948 election to see how it helped the the rise of Joe McCarthy.

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St. Louis Cardinals in 1965-Won 5 Lost 9

Previously I mentioned the 1964 season for the St. Louis Cardinals.  The second place Cardinals had 9-3-2 record, one half game behind the first place Cleveland Browns.  The Browns  were 10-3-1.  Ironically, the Cardinals were better in face to face combat.   There was a tie at 33 in an early season game at Cleveland; the Cardinals won 28 to 19 in week 13 in St Louis.

High expectations for 1965!  After the first game, a loss to the Eagles, there was a 49 to 13 thrashing of the Cleveland Browns. This was one of the biggest wins in  Cardinal history. The Browns were the defending champions of the NFL.  They would go on to an 11-3 record in 1965 good for the Eastern Conference championship in 1965.

For St. Louis-Charlie Johnson completed just 11 passes but for 310 yards and six touchdowns.  Sonny Randle caught seven of the 11 passes  for 198 yards and three touchdowns.  Willis Crenshaw had just one pass but made it count; a 78 yard touchdown.  The defense intercepted six passes for 114 yards in returns.  They recorded four sacks putting the Browns back 41 yards.

For Cleveland-Even with the margin of that defeat, 36 points, there were some good points for Cleveland.  Jim Brown always made his presence felt and this game was no exception.  He carried 17 times for 110 or an average of 6.5 yards.  Gary Collins caught six passes for 116 yards and the only touchdown.  Larry Benz and Erich Barnes each had a pass interception for a total of 67 yards.

Week 5-The 20 to 7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. St. Louis completely stopped the Steelers offense. The only score for Pittsburgh came on a fumbled punt return at the Steelers’ five. I saw this game at Pitt Stadium and there was total frustration.

After this 4-1 start, fans had be thinking about finishing first in the Conference. Then the roof fell in. The Cardinals lost the next two games before hosting the Steelers. Pittsburgh came back from 14 to 3 in the fourth quarter to lead 17 to 14; but the Cardinals showed their resistance to a loss. With 37 seconds left, Charlie Johnson threw a 59 yard touchdown pass to Bill Gambrell. Final St Louis 21 Pittsburgh 17.  This really hurt the Steelers.   After this game, the Cardinals record was 5-3.

The Cardinals lost the remaining five games to end the season at 5-9. There were many more year end limpings in the future.