Seeing Red, Review of John E. Haynes' Red Scare or Red Menace? American Communism and Anticommunism in the Cold War Era (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996); Harvey Klehr and Ronald Radosh's The Amerasia Spy Case: Prelude to McCarthyism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1996); and Richard Gid Powers' Not Without Honor: The History of American Anti-Communism (New York: The Free Press, 1995).
From the 1960s through the 1980s, the strongest taboo in American political discourse was the subject of Soviet influence within the United States. The only way an American could be labeled a communist in the prestige press, it seemed, was to be the nominee of the Communist Party USA for president of the United States. To be nominated for vice president was insufficient: Gus Hall, the party's perennial presidential candidate, was identified as such; but Angela Davis, several times his running mate, was ordinarily identified only as a "black activist."
The main reason for this taboo was the searing legacy of McCarthyism. McCarthy's modus operandi was to toss off serious accusations of disloyalty and treason with a disgracefully cavalier regard for accuracy. He seized center stage with sallies against communists in the State Department--an arm of the federal government that had in fact harbored communists. But how many, or who they were, or whether they were still employed at Foggy Bottom were details McCarthy could never get straight. Nor did he deign to distinguish between communists, fellow travelers, dupes, naifs, or critics of Joe McCarthy--all were smeared with the same brush.