Author Talk with Larry Tye on "Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Joe McCarthy"

Thursday, July 30 at 3pm / on Zoom

Book sales through Eight Cousins Bookstore, Falmouth

Registration is restricted to members of FJC and FJC affiliates -- Brotherhood and Sisterhood. We are sorry not to welcome the public and encourage you to hear Larry speak at other venues on Cape Cod and through virtual programs.

Larry Tye’s Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy, released on July 7, s a Booklist Starred Review. 

“Tye brings [McCarthy] back to ferocious life…Tye is an even-handed reporter…Though readers may grow to loathe McCarthy, it’s painful to watch his alcohol-soaked deterioration and death. This is a must-read biography…and every reader will blanch at its events’ resemblances to today’s fraught political conflicts.”


Book sales handled by Eight Cousins Bookstore

Please support this talk by purchasing a copy of the book, which releases on July 7. The store is coordinating with Larry to provide signed copies, so mention this when ordering.

 Place your order online at / 508.548.5548 Telephone orders daily 10-5

FJC welcomes back its member Larry Tye, acclaimed journalist and author, whose latest book was released on July 7. We are grateful that Larry made room in his busy virtual and live touring schedule to present this talk to our community. The verve of Larry's narrative and insights of his research and reflections on his subjects comes through in both his writing and talks. Don't miss this opportunity. Read about "Demagogue" and Larry's many other books and work as a journalist (Boston Globe) at his website:

About Demagogue (from Larry's website)

Demagogue is two books in one – a biography of Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy, one of the most reviled figures in U.S. history, and a broader look at America’s long-standing love affair with bullies.

Author Larry Tye got the first-ever access to McCarthy’s personal and professional papers, medical and military records, love letters, wartime diaries, and other files that had been under lock and key for half a century. Examining this fresh evidence of McCarthy’s official excesses, and of his surprising behind-the-scenes humanity, makes him more authentic, if also more confounding. Today, every schoolchild in America is introduced to Joe McCarthy, but generally as a caricature, and their parents and grandparents recall the senator mainly with catch phrases like witch hunter or with a single word: evil. The newly disclosed records let us shave away the myths and understand how the junior senator from Grand Chute rose to become powerful enough not just to intimidate Dwight Eisenhower, our most popular postwar president, but to provoke senators and others to take their own lives. Pulling open the curtain, Tye reveals Senator McCarthy as neither the Genghis Kahn his enemies depicted, nor the Joan of Arc rendered by friends. 

Somewhere between that saint and sinner lies the real man. He was in fact more insecure than we imagined, more undone by his boozing, more embracing of friends and avenging of foes, and more sinister.

But this is more than the biography of a single bully. A uniquely American strain of demagoguery has pulsed through the nation’s veins from its founding days. Although Senator McCarthy’s drastic tactics and ethical indifference make him an extraordinary case, he was hardly an original. He owed much to a lineup of zealots and dodgers who preceded him – from Huey “The Kingfish” Long to Boston’s “Rascal King” mayor James Michael Curley and Michigan’s Jew-baiting radio preacher Father Charles Coughlin – and McCarthy in turn became the exemplar for nearly all the bullies who followed. Alabama Governor George Wallace, Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan, and Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke tapped the McCarthy model, appealing to their countrymen’s simmering fears of imagined subversions even as they tried to escape the label of McCarthyism. All had big plans and glorified visions in which they played the crowning roles. 

As gut-wrenching as their tales are, McCarthy and his fellow firebrands offer a heartening message at a moment when we are desperate for one: every one of those autocrats – Curley and Wallace, Coughlin and McCarthy – fell even faster than they rose, once America saw through them and reclaimed its better self. Given the rope, most demagogues eventually hang themselves.



Larry on Fresh Air: “We’ve got to learn from our history"


Reviews of Demagogue, from Larry’s Website:



Larry’s article in The Forward: McCarthy Was Anti-Community. Was He Also Anti-Semitic?