Blame for the USA's failure to match the USSR led some Americans to look for enemy agents at home. Americans thought the only explainable reason for their failure was that there was a spy within the government, that the enemy within was undermining USA. McCarthyism was to represent this fear. The Communist Party in the USA was never very large. At its height membership was no more than 100,000. But still, it was very possible that one of these members was spying the US government.
Joseph McCarthy was a great big jerk. He was a smart little bastard who knew how to use other people psychologically. He knew the fear of Americans and started whipping up anti-communist fears, which proved very effective. In 1950 McCarthy gave a speech at a Women's Republican Club during which he announced 'The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205- a list of names that were known to the secretary of state as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy.'
He absolutely had no evidence at all. The list might have been his wife's shopping list. But thousands of Americans were waiting for this kind of thing to happen. They were ready to believe anything. Using his power as head of a minor Senate committee, McCarthy accused individuals as communist spies. He used the notoriety gained from his accusations to bolster his flagging political career, but in 1954 he finally went too far. When he made accusations against the army, the case went to court and was televised; US citizens saw what a big jerk he was. He was condemned by the senate and deserted by his colleagues.
I think that Joseph McCarthy was trying to...