Featured on Fresh Air! A Christian Science Monitor best nonfiction book of 2020 An Amazon best history book of 2020 “The fullest account yet of the crusading junior senator from Wisconsin...the rigor of his research ensures he goes far beyond the caricature to give us a portrait of nuance and depth.”—Wall Street Journal “Tye captures ‘Low Blow Joe’ in all his shambolic ingloriousness . . . The result is an epic expose that . . . will leave [readers] shaking their heads over the rise and fall of the greatest demagogue in American history, with the possible exception of the current White House incumbent.” —The Boston Globe “’Demagogue’ does an impressive job of shedding new light on Joe McCarthy, but the more light is shed, the more repulsive he appears. ‘The more we learn,’ Tye writes, ‘the fewer heroes this story has.’”—Christian Science Monitor
“Tye has produced a compelling and rich biography that will become the new authoritative text on its subject.”—Los Angeles Review of Books “…vivid chronicle of the ascent, reign, and decline of Joseph McCarthy.”—National Book Review“Demagogue is a beautifully written, richly researched tragedy, a morality tale in three acts. In the end, it proves that most demagogues, like the legendary emperor, usually have no clothes. And it’s not a pretty sight to behold.”—New York Journal of Books “An interesting, readable account…new material from McCarthy’s personal archive add interesting and colorful detail to what has previously been known.”—Life and Liberty “Tantalizing.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “In an age when we see the resurrection of Senator Joe McCarthy’s tactics—exaggeration and lies, guilt by association, the smearing of political opponents, and above all the acquiescence of enablers who know better—Larry Tye’s Demagogue is a gripping, essential read. Drawing on records newly unsealed after sixty years, Tye explains how McCarthy’s fear-mongering caught fire, offering timely insight into the rise of bullies and what is required to defeat them.”—Samantha Power, former US Ambassador to the United Nations and New York Times bestselling author of The Education of an Idealist “For many contemporary readers, Joseph McCarthy is a done and dusted relic for the history books, but Tye (Bobby Kennedy, 2016) brings him back to ferocious life . . . Tye is an even-handed reporter, tracking the truth of stories advanced by both McCarthy's devotees and detractors . . . This is a must-read biography for anyone fascinated by American history, and every reader will blanch at its events' resemblances to today's fraught political conflicts.”—Booklist, STARRED “Larry Tye’s Demagogue nails the defining biography of Joe McCarthy. I grew up a Cold War kid watching it all on television. I thought I knew it all, but Tye makes it real. To understand Donald Trump, you have to understand Joe McCarthy first, and Tye’s your guide.”—John Kerry, former US Secretary of State “Tye has written a fabulous, can't-put-down examination of one of the most dangerous politicians in American history. But Demagogue is more than a biography—it's a warning of the peril we are facing.”— William Cohen, former US Secretary of Defense “Written in a straightforward, judicious style…a definitive biography that will stand the test of time.” —Library Journal “[A] sure-handed account . . . searing and informative portrait of [Senator Joseph McCarthy] and his specific brand of self-aggrandizing demagoguery.”—Publishers Weekly “Meaty narrative . . . a timely examination of a would-be savior whose name remains a byword for demagoguery.”—Kirkus Reviews “As the demagogue now in the Oval Office—mentored personally by McCarthy's unscrupulous disciple Roy Cohn—asserts monarchical authority, it has never been more urgent to have Larry Tye's definitive answers to the questions: How did Joe McCarthy get power in America? And how was he brought down?"—Daniel Ellsberg, nuclear defense analyst and author of The Doomsday Machine “Tye takes us, step by step, as one of America’s most dangerous right-wing populists learns how to use fear and deception to vault his way into power and threaten our country’s most basic rights. The lessons for today are all too clear.”—Steven Levitsky, coauthor of How Democracies Die “This well-crafted, deeply researched study of Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism reveals the awful consequences of demagoguery in America, and its toll on our democracy. Tye provides not only untold history, but an essential primer for the times of Trump. We cannot ignore the lessons revealed in Larry Tye’s narrative.—John W. Dean, former Nixon White House Counsel “Larry Tye's deeply reported Demagogue accomplishes two essential tasks at once. As first-rate biographies do, it lifts Joe McCarthy from stereotype to vivid flesh, while also using the past to illuminate the present.—David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father “Fueled by a trove of newly uncovered documents, Demagogue charts the legacy of Joe McCarthy, reviled master of the political smear, through the malign tutelage of McCarthy henchman Roy Cohn and directly to Donald J. Trump. A must-read.”—Richard Ben-Veniste, assistant Watergate special prosecutor and author of The Emperor’s New Clothes "Larry Tye's razor smart and riveting account is a timely, and dismaying, reminder of how hard it is for American politics to turn on a demagogue who exploits our fears. Joe McCarthy left few profiles in political courage in his wake." —Tim Naftali, former director of the Nixon Presidential Library and coauthor of Impeachment: An American History “There couldn’t be a more fitting time for Larry Tye to revisit the history of Senator Joe McCarthy. Based on new archival findings, Demagogue tells the story of one of the notorious senators in congressional history, a legislator who destroyed lives, shattered reputations, and damaged institutions until he eventually did himself in.”—Julian Zelizer, author of Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, The Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party
In this contribution to a fuller depiction of the formidable figure for whom the term McCarthyism originated, Tye (Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon) paints a portrait of Joseph McCarthy (1908–57) using previously unavailable archives and firsthand interviews with those who both supported and opposed the politician. Written in a straightforward, judicious style, Tye's book portrays the charms and evasions of this multifaceted World War II veteran, circuit judge, Wisconsin senator, and anti-Communist agitator. Tye shows how McCarthy had support across partisan lines as chair of the Senate Committee on Government Operations in the early 1950s. The author continues by providing insight into how the tumult McCarthy provoked divided organizations such as the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union; some members supported his goals of removing purported Communist proponents from positions of responsibility, but not his bullying tactics. Tye suggests that McCarthy's methods are more than memories from the not-so-distant past; rather, they are warnings of the disruptive nature of unrestrained populism. VERDICT Often previously studied, McCarthy's career and consequences merit this additional analytical treatment that will satisfy curious readers of history. A definitive biography that will stand the test of time.—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Lib. of Congress, Washington, DC
A politically informed life of the crusading right-wing senator who saw a communist in every film studio, university, and military barracks.
Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) began his career in the Senate in 1946 after a surprise victory in Wisconsin over the long-serving Robert La Follette Jr. As Boston-based journalist Tye, the author of biographies of Bobby Kennedy and Satchel Paige, writes, McCarthy ran a bruising campaign of “relentless messaging” as “a kick-’em-in-the-nuts type of candidate.” Decidedly out of his element in the staid confines of the Capitol, he quickly built a reputation, even among his fellow Republicans, as “a gasbag and a pretender.” An undisguised anti-Semite, he carved out a place for himself by teaming up with anti-communist (and Jewish) attorney Roy Cohn and launching a crusade against suspected communists in the government, including, he charged, untold thousands of agents in the State Department and other federal agencies and within the ranks of the armed services. That he did so while frequently hospitalized and treated with “morphine, codeine, Demerol, and other potent narcotics” to battle the alcoholism that would kill him was testimony to his scrappiness. Though notorious for bad judgment—including giving a pass to the Nazis who had murdered American prisoners of war at Malmedy, which, Tye writes, “was just a warm-up act”—McCarthy put the fear in his opponents and browbeat his fellow senators into giving him his lead until he finally took it a step too far in hearings against the U.S. Army. The author concludes his meaty narrative by linking the current occupant of the White House to McCarthy by means of Cohn, “the flesh-and-blood nexus between the senator and the president,” who taught Trump a cardinal lesson: If you say it often enough, loudly enough, and insistently enough, and frighten your listener while you do so, it becomes true—and, if only for a time, a guarantee of success for any tyrant.
A timely examination of a would-be savior whose name remains a byword for demagoguery.