George McGovern, 1922-2012

“McGovern was a die-hard idealist. His electoral loss embittered him, but not for long. He never abandoned his optimism or his faith in humanity. Neither did he give up his devotion to liberalism or what colleagues called his extraordinary sense of decency.” (New York Times obituary)

We should have cloned him when we had the chance.

10 thoughts on “George McGovern, 1922-2012

  1. As someone else said, “The best president we never had.” Will we make the same mistake again in 2012 that we did in 1972: elect a crook all over again?

  2. Yes, I was about to say, there are quite a few we could have cloned, to the country’s benefit.

  3. I was a junior in high school, unwashed behind the ears, when McGovern came to my hometown and gave his standard stump speech, outdoors, in the town square, in 1972, on the way to somewhere else. Thereafter I wore a “McGovern” bumpersticker (on my bicycle backpack no less). I still remember the modern Helvetica typeface and blue/purple letters on white background. My first exposure to a national level politician, and I was smitten.

    Then, all the evil came, beginning with Nixon. I remember being crestfallen, when the results came in that November – every state except Massachusetts had gone for Nixon. I couldn’t understand it, nor could I really grasp the next few decades that followed.

    As Hunter Thompson wrote, in a famous, often quoted passage from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

    “with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

  4. My first guinea pig was named George, after him. But that was second choice since mom refused to let me name him Nixon.

  5. In his 2011 book, “What It Means to Be a Democrat,” he summed up his credo:

    “Above all, being a Democrat means having compassion for others. … It means standing up for people who have been kept down …”

  6. He was all that and more.

    He was also Exhibit A in the fracturing of the New Deal coalition that FDR had so skillfully put together:

    As for his electability, I go back and forth on that. There are some that say that the Republicans engineered McGovern’s nomination by launching an orchestrated smear campaign against Ed Muskie, who they felt would have beaten Nixon in the ’72 elections. Then again, I suspect a lot of Americans wondered how Ed Muskie would handle the general-election campaign (or Leonid Brezhnev) if he couldn’t keep from having an on-camera tear-filled breakdown over laughable and easily-debunked election allegations.

    • Phoenix — the 1972 election was the first time I voted for President, for McGovern. I remember wearing a big McGovern button on the (then de rigueur) Army fatigue jacket I wore around campus that fall.

      I suspect Republicans were happy that McGovern was the nominee, but I’m afraid McGovern’s own stumbles hurt him. I know that bouncing Tom Eagleton off the ticket turned a lot of people off. The 1972 DNC convention, while in some ways a high-water-mark of liberalism of the time, caused widespread alarm in most of the population and probably cost McGovern votes. He had a tax proposal that was very unpopular. Further, McGovern was not well supported by the Democratic Party.

      I think an antiwar candidate could have won, but he would have had to run a much smarter campaign and have had the Dem party machinery behind him.

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