Members of Boise State’s Osher Institute Tuesday heard lectures linking Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Communist witch-hunts of the 1950s to Idaho. History writer Marc Johnson connected the dots between McCarthy and two Idaho elections.
Johnson says Idaho Republican Herman Welker used McCarthy’s Red Scare to get elected to the Senate in 1950. Johnson says Idaho Democratic Senator Glenn Taylor was perhaps the most liberal person Idaho ever elected to a high office. In the 1950 election, Welker borrowed from McCarthy’s play book and painted Taylor as a Communist sympathizer. Welker won.
When he got to the U.S. Senate Welker became one of McCarthy’s closest friends and allies and rose to prominence with him. But when the public turned against McCarthy, Welker fell with him. Welker lost overwhelmingly to an unknown Democrat, Frank Church, in 1956. Church then went on to a 24-year-career in the Senate.
Taylor and Welker are far less well known than Church but Johnson says they are some of the most interesting characters from Idaho’s political history. On Tuesday we heard Johnson talk about how Welker’s ties to McCarthy contributed to Church’s election. Now you can listen to an unaired part of that interview in which Johnson talks about why Taylor fascinates him and how Welker may have launched the career of baseball great Harmon Killebrew.
Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam
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