One of the most persistent growths in the State House garden is the McCarthy-Dorgan proposal to outlaw Communists in Massachusetts. This has been growing for some time, and the latest bloom, H. 426, is bigger and more inclusive than ever. Some people pass it off as an annual publicity stunt, which may be correct, But Paul W. McCarthy is a clever man and he did not write H. 426 in a fit of hysteria. Despite his bill's many drawbacks, he has strong support at the State House.
Uselessness is one of these drawbacks. H. 426 would permit the Attorney General to investigate any group for possible subversive activities, and would declare teaching or advocating treason or the violent overthrew of the government illegal. However, this does not offer any new way of discovering actual conspirers, which are adequately covered already, what it does is deprive the Communists of a place on the ballot, which would not be much of a loss to them. In fact, the party would gain a strong propaganda point.
But more important, II, 426 would threaten server limits on patriotic people who happen to support unorthodox political groups. McCarthy carefully did not mention the Communists by name in his bill because "they can always change their name." Logical as it seems, this looseness could be dangerous. The intolerance directed towards everyone not "100 percent American" in last Wednesday's hearing suggests the abuses that would surely develop.
McCarthy's and Dorgan's favorite references--the Foundation Fathers--would not fail to see this danger. Even if their present-day devotees do not, they realized that it is impossible to protect rights by eliminating them.