There was once a fear that took over the Republican Party and the nation. But one brave woman stood up against it.
It was spread by a bullying demagogue who accused his opponents of being traitors and communists. He leveled attacks without evidence, said he represented "Americanism with its sleeves rolled up." His supporters embraced a cult of personality drenched in conspiracy theories, sure that God was on their side.
Their intensity - their crushing certainty - intimidated most politicians into silence, reports CNN. They did not want the trouble of being attacked by the party's activist base. They knew it was wrong but worried that if they told the truth they could lose a primary election. But one woman spoke up.
She was from Maine and her name was Margaret Chase Smith - the first woman popularly elected to the US Senate. It was 1950 and her target was Sen. Joe McCarthy.
The freshman senator stood alone on the floor of the Senate and issued what she called a "Declaration of Conscience." No cameras captured the speech that day, but here's part of what she said: "Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and the suspicions that ... spread like cancerous tentacles of 'know nothing, suspect everything' attitudes."
An election was looming and Chase wanted the GOP to win, but she said, "I don't want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny - Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear."
She denounced the pursuit of "selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity" - an approach that played into the "totalitarian techniques" of "confuse, divide, and conquer" ... that, if "unchecked, will surely end what we have come to cherish as the American way of life."
Her stand would inspire more of her fellow senators to find the courage to speak up. And McCarthy would ultimately become isolated, consumed by lawsuits and scandals, revealed as a petty, paranoid narcissist. He died friendless and reviled.
The fact that Joe McCarthy's lawyer - Roy Cohn - later went on to mentor Donald Trump is more than a coincidence of history, doubly ironic because Donald Trump was the Kremlin's preferred candidate in two elections.
But the most relevant echo here is the lonely stand of Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney and her looming purge from House leadership for the sin of refusing to back the Big Lie - that Trump and not Joe Biden won the presidency.
Donald Trump will look no better than Joe McCarthy in the eyes of history - and neither will his spineless apologists.
A digital narrative researcher started collecting all of Trump's tweets from the day he announced his candidacy until 8 January 2021, the day Twitter permanently suspended his account. All 20,301 of them. Here's what she discovered...