Fellow Travelers: Is Wesley Smith Based on a Real Senator?

Senator Wesley Smith is Hawkins “Hawk” Fuller’s mentor in Showtime’s historical series ‘Fellow Travelers.’ When Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and his chief counsel Roy Cohn prepare to unleash a witch-hunt, Smith decides against siding with them. Hawk shares his “rebellious” beliefs concerning communism with Smith, whom he wants in higher positions for the sake of the country. He also eventually becomes Hawk’s father-in-law as the latter marries his daughter Lucy Smith. Since the series features real-life politicians such as McCarthy, we have found out whether Smith was a real senator.

The Voice of Dissent

A Republican senator named Wesley Smith didn’t win the senate election in 1952. Such a character is also not in Thomas Mallon’s eponymous source novel, which makes it clear that series creator Ron Nyswaner and his team of writers conceived the fictional senator. He is presented as a voice of dissent among the Republicans during the McCarthy era as Joseph McCarthy starts to allege that there are several communists employed in the State Department. While a group of government officials and bureaucrats align with McCarthy’s notions, Smith stands against them.

Smith makes it clear that a person cannot be alleged to have communist ties only because the individual attended the same meeting attended by a communist leader. Although he gets isolated due to his political stand and opinion, he bravely expresses the same without fearing the backlash. Even though the character is fictional, he reminds us of the Republican politicians who didn’t join McCarthy in hunting down “alleged” communists during the 1950s. These politicians mainly include Margaret Chase Smith, who served as a senator from Maine from 1949 to 1973.

In addition to the same last name, Margaret becomes significant because she is mentioned extensively in Mallon’s source novel. The late politician is considered one of the first to criticize McCarthy’s policies, through her 1950 speech “Declaration of Conscience.” “It is high time we stopped thinking politically as Republicans and Democrats about elections and started thinking patriotically as Americans about national security based on individual freedom,” Margaret said in an occasion about the infamous second Red Scare, as per Smithsonian Magazine.

Margaret was highly critical of her Republican peers despite being an integral part of the party at the time. “As an American, I don’t want a Democratic Administration ‘white wash’ or ‘cover-up’ any more than I want a Republican smear or witch hunt. As an American, I condemn a Republican ‘fascist’ just as much as I condemn a Democrat ‘communist.’ I condemn a Democrat ‘fascist’ just as much as I condemn a Republican ‘communist.’ They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country,” reads her “Declaration of Conscience.”

Although Margaret didn’t name McCarthy explicitly, it is clear that her words were targeting his tactics. Therefore, we can draw parallels between her and the fictional Wesley Smith.

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