Will history repeat itself?

Published 5:53 pm Saturday, January 30, 2016

By Kermit Hobbs Jr.

It’s interesting being a history buff, especially when I can remember some of the events that I later read about.

I vaguely remember, as a child, seeing a man named Joe McCarthy on our black-and-white television saying something about Communists. I was too young at the time to understand what he was talking about, but I remember that my dad sniffed in disgust when he heard the man speaking.

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I eventually learned the rest of the story. In the early 1950s there was a great fear among many Americans that Communists were planning to take over our government.

Sen. Joe McCarthy stepped forward and claimed to have a list of more than 200 people within the State Department who were conspiring to do just that. His “list” was soon shown to be phony, but he continued to fan the flames of fear among Americans.

For several years he basked in the spotlight as the champion of Americanism and the foe of Communism, while in the process ruining the careers of many people whom he accused. For several years almost nobody, including those in government or the news media, dared to oppose him and risk being labeled a Communist.

Finally in 1954, McCarthy was challenged and exposed as a liar and a demagogue. McCarthyism collapsed like a giant political Ponzi scheme, and the nation breathed a sigh of relief.

Today, America has a situation similar to that of the early ‘50s. Now, along with fear, there is frustration and anger, particularly among many people who feel disenfranchised by our government. Often with good reason, people believe that the values that we have cherished have been thrown aside and that we have lost our way.

Some of the causes are obvious, such as social changes and the globalization of our economy that have threatened people’s security.

While those things were happening, trust in government suffered, partly by the unmet expectations people have come to have of the government. Coupled with that, decades of negative campaign ads have poisoned the respect we have for our elected officials and the offices they hold.

In this political climate, we now have our own version of Joe McCarthy. His name is Donald Trump, and he is a candidate for president of the United States.

Trump brings no realistic ideas to solve the America’s problems. Rather than offering practical solutions, he uses childish tantrums and deliberately insulting rants to hide his weaknesses, while keeping himself in the spotlight.

Further, he has shown us that he can dish it out, but he can’t take it. When he disapproved of the person who was scheduled to moderate Thursday evening’s Republican debate on Fox News, he backed out. He picked up his marbles and went home.

The best thing I can say of Donald Trump is that he is a loud voice for people who are disgusted with the government. That wouldn’t be so bad if he had some substance to back it up. Unfortunately, he doesn’t.

Trump is just as dangerous as Joe McCarthy ever was and, in this age when money seems to buy anything, he has an unlimited bank account and an ego to match.

Is this the person we need as president of the United States? I think not. Donald Trump is an insult to the intelligence of the very people whom he expects to elect him.

Our nation faces many problems, particularly the need to rediscover our values. I don’t know how we will solve these problems, but I know for certain it won’t be under the leadership of a blowhard opportunist like Donald Trump.

Kermit Hobbs Jr. is an accomplished Suffolk historian and businessman. Email him at khobbs5@aol.com.