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The years from the end of World War II to the end of the 1950s were dominated by four powerful changes in American life.The first was the birth of the Cold War, and the great fears that it created.Mc Carthy was an important part of the great crusade against domestic subversion that shaped American public life in the 1950s, but he was only one of many figures who helped create the great fear.
Anti-communism became official government policy not just in Washington, but at every level of government.
Forty-four out of the forty-eight state governments in the United States passed laws between 19 designed to root out subversives and suppress communist activities.
Elected to the Senate in Wisconsin in 1946, he approached his re-election still an obscure mediocrity without any important issue or achievement on which to base his campaign.
Beginning in 1950, he began searching for visibility, and unsurprisingly in a time when anticommunism was a powerful force in national politics, he chose to present himself as a scourge of disloyalty.
For the five days of what became known as the Army-Mc Carthy hearings, these two forces remained locked in unequal combat until finally Mc Carthy—a victim in the end of his own arrogance, recklessness, and laziness—staggered from the contest discredited, heading toward a humiliating censure by the Senate, and doomed to a painful obscurity for the remaining few years of his alcohol-fuelled life.