• Demagogue

  • The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy
  • By: Larry Tye
  • Narrated by: Ben Jaeger-Thomas
  • Length: 21 hrs and 12 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (94 ratings)

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Demagogue

By: Larry Tye
Narrated by: Ben Jaeger-Thomas
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Publisher's Summary

The definitive biography of the most dangerous demagogue in American history, based on first-ever access to his personal and professional papers, medical and military records, and recently unsealed transcripts of his closed-door Congressional hearings

In the long history of American demagogues from Huey Long to Donald Trump, never has one man caused so much damage in such a short time as Senator Joseph McCarthy. We still use "McCarthyism" to stand for outrageous charges of guilt by association, a weapon of polarizing slander. From 1950 to 1954, McCarthy destroyed many careers and even entire lives, whipping the nation into a frenzy of paranoia, accusation, loyalty oaths, and terror. When the public finally turned on him, he came crashing down, dying of alcoholism in 1957. Only now, through best-selling author Larry Tye's exclusive look at the senator's records, can the full story be told. 

Demagogue is a masterful portrait of a human being capable of great evil, yet great charm. McCarthy was a tireless worker and a genuine war hero. His ambitions knew no limits. Neither did his socializing, his drinking, nor his gambling. When he finally made it to the Senate, he flailed around in search of an agenda and angered many with his sharp elbows and lack of integrity. Finally, after three years, he hit upon anti-communism. 

By recklessly charging treason against everyone from George Marshall to much of the State Department, he became the most influential and controversial man in America. His chaotic, meteoric rise is a gripping and terrifying object lesson for us all. Yet his equally sudden fall from fame offers reason for hope that, given the rope, most American demagogues eventually hang themselves.

©2020 Larry Tye (P)2020 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

What listeners say about Demagogue

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A necessary counterbalance to revisionism

I decided to listen this book after seeing the PBS documentary on JRM, as well as listening to a more conservative attempt at the reconstruction of the late senator’s legacy. The evidence of McCarthy’s misconduct is so well documented that it’s hard to believe there are those who continually attempt to resuscitate his legacy. While it is certainly true that Joe did catch quite a few communists, it is truer still that their hides came at a steep price: a society driven by paranoia of the unseen enemy that continues to the present day.

Joe’s tactics remind me of the current President, Donald J. Trump, who, in a lot of ways, copied Joe’s playbook. A small, but telling example: Joe had little nicknames for the people he belittled. Instead of “sleepy joe” or “little Marco” it was “sanctimonious Stu.” Admittedly, joe had a much better vocabulary than the President, who surely doesn’t have “sanctimonious” in his lexicon.

11 people found this helpful

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NOT an Anti-Trump book as another reviewer wrote

Larry Tye explores the definition of a demogogue through the behavior & actions of Joe McCarthy as a detailed case study but is light on biography. The author objectively draws in other examples of historical demagogues such as Julius Caesar, Hitler, & includes the current White House occupant for understanding of typical demogogue's behavior. It doesn't come across as Anti-Trump if you read the whole book, not just the Intro. The author shows the susceptibility of the US to tyranny despite the American myth of moral fortitude. The other reviewer's comment almost dissuaded me from reading this edifying book. Glad I forged ahead.

6 people found this helpful

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This is anti Trump book

Very disappointing read of an otherwise well researched book and at the same time a book with a narrative chuck full of unconvincing parallels between McCarthy and President Trump.

5 people found this helpful

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Forceful personality, New insights

It is good to get beyond what I learned about McCarthy in school. As is often the case, there is a more than just catch phrases. The tragedy of this man with so much potential, so much drive, so much ability, to focus that energy in ways that were so offensive to so many people, is clearly spelled out in this book. The observations of his downfall coming more from how he went about things, rather than what he was focusing on, give excellent insight that can be used today. Having access to records previously restricted, including his personal papers, really fills out the story in ways that previously were not able to be shared. This is a solid read, and worth the time period

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Lessons not learned

It amazes me how some people think they are above the fray, and others follow the same path to the same results. This book expresses the past. lesson should be learned

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  • jw
  • 06-07-22

Demagogue

I have often heard that Republican Party has two wings to it, The McCarthy wing and the Eisenhower wing. The glue binding the two together was always communism, at least until the fall of the Berlin wall. It seems the McCarthy wing has consumed the Eisenhower wing as of late. McCarthy truly was the precursor to the modern Republican party in many ways and this book illuminates them wonderfully. I highly recommend this book for every student of the modern GOP.

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Fantastic! Timely!

Fantastic, timely recounting of the man and the phenomenon at the center of McCarthyism. Balanced and very well researched, making good use of not only the historical and biographical narratives already published, but also material (like McCarthy’s Bethesda Hospital records) more recently released.

The narration is so good, I will check out other books done by this narrator just to enjoy his voice a few more hours.

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Must listen!

Perfect time to rediscover Joseph McCarthy. As we know, history may not repeat perfectly, but it certainly does rhyme. For those not familiar, be introduced to the significant similarities between the discredited McCarthy and the rerun/repeat known as former President Donald Trump.

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Relevant History

There have been people like McCarthy throughout history, and it is helpful to understand his methods and the reasons for his success. This book is based on records newly released and thus can offer a fuller understanding of the man and his times.

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A must read

A must read for anyone who wants to understand America’s weakness for demagogues and how we got to our current situation

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  • Georgie151
  • 08-15-20

just about trump bashing

Not in the class of "the rise and fall of Senator McCarthy" by James Giblin available on Audible - even though greatly admired by John and Bobby K this is just a Trump basher with no analysis