Joe's Rise & Fall

Joseph McCarthy campaign poster
McCarthy did eventually go on to become a Senator from Wisconsin in 1946.  During his early years in the Senate, McCarthy was fairly quiet on many issues, and was not a very active Senator.  As re-election approached however, McCarthy became much more vocal.  McCarthy launched his anti-Communist crusade in 1950, and was re-elected in 1952.  McCarthy then took over the chairmanship of the Government Operations Committee.  He used its' investigative arm to investigate supposed Communists employed by the Federal government.  McCarthy's investigations were criticized for not being investigatory- but rather accusatory.  McCarthy used aggressive tactics, and argued that they were the only effective way to "dig up" Communists.  In 1954, the Senate began to disagree, and passed a resolution to censure McCarthy.  A censure does not carry an official penalty, but it is a high mark of shame.  The resolution to censure McCarthy stated:

"Resolved, That the Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, failed to cooperate with the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration in clearing up matters referred to that subcommittee which concerned his conduct as a Senator and affected the honor of the Senate and, instead, repeatedly abused the subcommittee and its members who were trying to carry out assigned duties, thereby obstructing the constitutional processes of the Senate, and that this conduct of the Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, is contrary to senatorial traditions and is hereby condemned.

Sec 2. The Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, in writing to the chairman of the Select Committee to Study Censure Charges (Mr. Watkins) after the Select Committee had issued its report and before the report was presented to the Senate charging three members of the Select Committee with "deliberate deception" and "fraud" for failure to disqualify themselves; in stating to the press on November 4, 1954, that the special Senate session that was to begin November 8, 1954, was a "lynch-party"; in repeatedly describing this special Senate session as a "lynch bee" in a nationwide television and radio show on November 7, 1954; in stating to the public press on November 13, 1954, that the chairman of the Select Committee (Mr. Watkins) was guilty of "the most unusual, most cowardly things I've ever heard of" and stating further: "I expected he would be afraid to answer the questions, but didn't think he'd be stupid enough to make a public statement"; and in characterizing the said committee as the "unwitting handmaiden," "involuntary agent" and "attorneys-in-fact" of the Communist Party and in charging that the said committee in writing its report "imitated Communist methods -- that it distorted, misrepresented, and omitted in its effort to manufacture a plausible rationalization" in support of its recommendations to the Senate, which characterizations and charges were contained in a statement released to the press and inserted in the Congressional Record of November 10, 1954, acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute, to obstruct the constitutional processes of the Senate, and to impair its dignity; and such conduct is hereby condemned.

Source: 83rd Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Resolution 301 (2 December 1954).

McCarthy would never fully recover from this blow from his colleagues.  McCarthy died from acute hepatitis three years later, while still serving in office.  McCarthy was buried in Appleton, Wisconsin.

The Grave of Joseph McCarthy