[Update: If you’re here ’cause Susie sent you, you probably want this link.]
The punditocracy argument about 1972, while dead wrong about McGovern himself, who was a brave, patriotic World War II hero form the South Dakota, has some validity, given whom he was perceived by voters to represent. The first serious historical research I ever did was when I was researching my honors thesis as an undergraduate. I wanted to study the origins of neoconservatism, the Six Day War, and Vietnamâ€”this was back in 1981â€”and my adviser, Walter LaFeberâ€”insisted that I learn a little context first by examining the attitudes of the entire country to the war and the antiwar movement. I poured over the polling data and found to my surprise, that in many ways, the antiwar movement was counterproductive. Many Americans didnâ€™t like the war but they really hated the counterculture. If supporting Nixon was a way to get back at the hippies and protesters and rioters, they were willing to do it, even if it meant extending a war they thought to be already lost.
This is true, and I’ve said the same thing many times. And every time I say this somebody tells me I’m crazy. “The Vietnam War ended, didn’t it? That must mean the antiwar movement was effective.” Hardly. History always looks simpler when you view it from a distance, but at the time it’s generally complicated and messy.
Now look at today. In the first place, as I keep saying, remember this is Connecticut. Itâ€™s blue, antiwar state. Itâ€™s not the whole damn country. But second, look at the context for Godâ€™s sake. Thereâ€™s no antiwar movement to speak of, no riots, no marches, no one is burning their draft cards, preaching free love, wiping themselves with the flag, bussing your kids to ghetto schools or vice-versa, taking away your jobs, raising your taxes to give the money to rioting race-baiting Black Panthers, etc.
Exactly. Instead you’ve got mostly middle-class citizens in khakis who give a damn about America and think the ship of state is being steered the wrong way — a view shared by a whopping majority of Americans.
The only Abbie Hoffman/Jerry Rubin types are on the right and when theyâ€™re not hosting Fox News programs, they are being called â€œbrilliantâ€ by Chris Matthews on MSNBC. So the upshot we are left with is that Connecticut Democrats picked a candidate whose positions are consistent with the majority and rejected one whose are not. And yet that, we are told is somehow the â€œelitistâ€ position that will destroy the Democrats with a public that largely agrees with them. In other words, the analogy fails completely upon the slightest scrutiny.
Also, the Anonymous Liberal has a history post up at Unclaimed Territory. And thanks to commenter dday for recommending this article on McGovern in The American Conservative magazine, believe it or not. It’s worth a look.