Clark, James C. Red Pepper and Gorgeous George: Claude Pepper's Epic Defeat in the 1950 Democratic Primary. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2011. xvi + 206 pages. Cloth, $29.95.
Storrs, Landon R. Y. The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013. 404 pages. Cloth, $39.50.
Historians remain animated by the Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s, and with good reason. According to Landon R. Y. Storrs, anti-communist hysteria "stunted the development of the American welfare state" by forcing the resignation--and/or ideological reorientation--of many left-leaning civil servants (p. 1). In a similar vein, James C. Clark demonstrates how the 1950 Florida Senate primary resulted in the replacement of Claude Pepper, an ardent New Dealer, with George Smathers, a Democratic standpatter. Together, these two historians explore separately how issues of race, class, and gender intersected with anti-communism to heighten a politics of fear and narrow the range of policy choices available to federal officials. Their books also highlight the philosophical, political, and personal costs of the post-1945 Red Scare.
The personal and political aspects of the Red Scare assume center-stage in Clark's Red Pepper and Gorgeous George. Claude Pepper's defeat at the hands of George Smathers in Florida's 1950 Senate Democratic primary is the stuff of legend. Exploiting Pepper's support for organized labor, an array of federal domestic programs, and a conciliatory approach toward the Soviet Union, Smathers tagged him the "Red Pepper" (p. 121). The young, handsome, and aggressive Smathers won the primary, a seat in the Senate, and a long-term, indelible reputation as "the South's Golden Hatchetman" (p. 155). In one speech, he allegedly tapped into the ignorance of Floridians: "Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper before his marriage habitually practiced celibacy" (p. 150). As Clark explains, the speech was fiction, the product of an imaginative reporter for Time bent on showing that "Smathers was capable of going to any length in campaigning" (p. 151). Partly as a result, a "consensus" of observers later came to view Pepper as a saintly figure...