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McCarthyism Commonlit Answers

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  • 10th Grade
  • Lexile: 1080

Source: McCarthyism by USHistory.org

Assessment Answers

QuestionAnswer
Part A: Which statement best identifies the central idea of the text?Joseph McCarthy used fear to manipulate Americans and government officials into wrongfully accusing and convicting people of being secret communists.
PART B: Which detail from the text best supports the answer to Part A?“McCarthy capitalized on national paranoia by
proclaiming that Communist spies were
omnipresent and that he was America’s only
salvation.” (Paragraph 6)
PART A: What is the meaning of the word “unscrupulous” as used in paragraph 14?“shameless.”
PART B: Which quote from the text best supports the answer to Part A?“no sense of decency” (Paragraph 13)

How does Reagan’s testimony in paragraphs 19-20 contribute to the development of ideas in the text?

Reagan’s testimony in paragraphs 19-20 contributes to the development of ideas in the text by providing a nuanced perspective on the issue of communism and McCarthyism in America. While Ronald Reagan expresses a clear dislike for communist philosophy and tactics, calling them “dishonest” and akin to those of a “fifth column,” he also strongly advocates for the protection of democratic principles.

His statement emphasizes the importance of not allowing fear or resentment towards communism to compromise the United States’ commitment to democracy and freedom of expression.

This testimony enriches the text’s exploration of McCarthyism by highlighting a critical viewpoint that recognizes the threat posed by communism yet cautions against overreaction that could erode the very foundations of American democracy.

Reagan’s words balance opposing communism and upholding democratic values, underscoring the complexity of the era’s political climate.

By including Reagan’s perspective, the text illustrates the broader debate within the United States about addressing the perceived communist threat without sacrificing individual liberties and democratic ideals.

This addition helps frame McCarthyism as not only a campaign of fear and accusation but also a catalyst for discussions on the limits of governmental power and the protection of civil liberties in the face of national security concerns.

Discussion Answers

In the context of the text, how does fear drive action? How does popular opinion shape political policies? Do you think it is acceptable for the government to suspend the rights of citizens when in a state of panic or emergency? Why or why not?

Okay, so basically, the whole thing about McCarthyism and how it played out shows us a lot about how fear can really push people to do some pretty intense stuff. Like, when everyone was super scared of communists being everywhere, it led to Senator McCarthy and others going on this huge witch hunt, accusing tons of people without much proof.

This was all because the fear of communism was so strong that it kinda blinded everyone to what was fair or right.

So, fear wasn’t just making people a little worried; it was driving them to support actions that totally trampled on people’s rights.

And then, about how popular opinion shapes political policies, it’s pretty clear from the McCarthy era that what the public thinks or fears can seriously push politicians to act in certain ways.

Like, McCarthy got a lot of support and attention because he was tapping into what people were already scared of. Politicians saw that fighting against communism was a big deal to the public, so they went along with it, even when it meant ignoring the usual rules of justice and fairness. It’s kinda like how trends influence what gets popular on TikTok, but way more serious and with real consequences.

As for whether it’s okay for the government to suspend citizens’ rights during a panic or emergency… I don’t think it’s a good idea. Sure, there are times when things are really serious, and maybe some actions need to be taken for safety. But, what happened during McCarthyism shows that once you start ignoring rights, it’s a slippery slope.

People got accused and punished without proper evidence, and that’s not fair. It’s like if a school decided to punish all students because of a rumor that someone cheated, without finding out if it was actually true.

Plus, once you start chipping away at rights, it’s hard to get them back, and it sets a scary precedent for the future. So, no, even in emergencies, we gotta stick to what’s fair and just, or else we risk becoming what we’re afraid of.


In the context of the passage, how can fear be used to manipulate? Do you think that a demagogue such as Joseph McCarthy could ever rise to power again? Why or why not? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.

In the passage about McCarthyism, it’s pretty obvious that fear was like the main tool for manipulation. Senator McCarthy, the dude at the center of all this, saw that people were already freaked out about communism spreading.

So, he jumps on this fear train, claiming there are communists everywhere in the government, which makes people even more paranoid. It’s like when someone spreads a rumor that there’s a surprise quiz coming up, and even though there’s no proof, everyone starts freaking out and studying like crazy.

McCarthy was basically saying, “Trust me, I got this,” making it seem like he was the only one who could save America from these so-called communists. This fear made people support him and not question his actions much, even when he accused people without solid evidence.

Now, on whether a guy like McCarthy could rise to power again… honestly, it’s totally possible.

We’ve seen how powerful fear can be in politics in history and even recent times. When people are scared, they sometimes stop thinking critically and start looking for someone who promises quick and easy solutions, even if those solutions trample on other people’s rights.

Social media and the internet can spread fear and rumors way faster than in McCarthy’s time, which could help a demagogue rise to power by exploiting those fears.

But then again, we’ve also learned a lot from history (or at least, we should have). We’ve got more ways to check facts now and call out BS when we see it, thanks to the internet and education on critical thinking.

Plus, stories in literature and movies that show the dangers of fear-mongering, like “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller, which is about the Salem witch trials but also comments on McCarthyism, remind us of what happens when we let fear drive us. So, while it’s possible for a demagogue to rise again, we’ve got the tools and knowledge to fight back and hopefully keep history from repeating itself.

Other Commonlit Answers

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