She took her seat. McCarthy was two rows behind her. When she was recognized she said the Senate needed to do “some soul-searching.” The Constitution “speaks not only of the freedom of speech but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation.” Those “who shout the loudest about Americanism” are ignoring “some of the basic principles of Americanism,” including the right to hold unpopular beliefs and to independent thought. Exercising those rights “should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to his livelihood, nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know someone who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us does not? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own.”…

When history hands you a McCarthy—reckless, heedlessly manipulating his followers—be a Margaret Chase Smith. If your McCarthy is saying a whole national election was rigged, an entire system corrupted, you’d recognize such baseless charges damage democracy itself. You wouldn’t let election officials be smeared. You’d stand against a growing hysteria in the base.

You’d likely pay some price. But years later you’d still be admired for who you were when it counted so much.