Serious alternatives to the status quo could be pre

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serious alternatives to the status quo could be pre- sented. Moreover, with the disappearance of a vigorous mo v ement on their left , moderate reform groups were more exposed to right- wi ng attacks and thus rendered less effective. In the realm of social polic y, for example, McCarthyism may have aborted much - needed reforms . As the nation s' politics swung to the right after World War II, the federal government abandoned the un - finished agenda of the New Deai. Measures like national health insur- ance, a social reform embraced by the rest of the industriali zed world, simply fell by the wayside. The left - liberal political coalition that might have supported health reforms and similar projects was tom apart by the anti-Communist crusade. Moderates feared being identified with anything that seemed too radical , and people to the left of them were either unheard or under attack. McCarth yism fur- ther contributed to the attenuation of the reform impul se by helping to divert the attention of the labor movement , the strongest institu- tion within the old New Deal coalition, from extenal organizing to in- ternal politicking. The impact of the McCarth y era was equally apparent in intern a- tional affairs. Opposition to the cold war had been so thoroughl y identified with communism that it was no longer possible to chal - leng e the basic assumptions of American foreign poli cy without in- curring suspicions of dislo yalty. As a result , from the defeat of third- party presidential candidate Henry Wallace in th e fall of 1948 until the earl y 1960s, effective public criticism of America's role in the world was essential ly nonexistent . Within the government , the ins ec u-
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rities that McCarthyism inflicted on the State Department lingered for years, especially with regard to East Asia. Thus, for example, the campaign against the "loss" of China left such long-lasting scars that American policymakers feared to acknowledge the official existence of the People's Republic of China until Richard Nixon, who was uniquely impervious to charges of being soft on communism, did so as president in 1971. And it was in part to avoid a replay of the loss-of China scenario that Nixon's Democratic predecessors, Kennedy and · Johnson, dragged the United States so deeply into the quagmire of Vietnam. The nation's cultural and intellectual life suffered as well. While there were other reasons that TV offered a bland menu of quiz shows , and westerns during the late 1950s, McCarthy-era anxieties clearli played a role. Similarly, the blacklist contributed to the reluctance of the film industry to grapple with controversial social or political is: , sues. In the intellectual world, cold war liberals also avoided contro­ versy. They celebrated the "end of ideology," claiming that the United States' uniquely pragmatic approach to politics made th:e problems that had once concerned left-wing ideologists irrelevant Consensus historians pushed that formulation into the past and de­ scribed a nation that had supposedly never experienced serious inter, nal conflict. It took the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War to
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Christopher Reinemann
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