Friday, February 12, 2016

And A One, And A Two . . .

(From SAVAGE MULES. I keep reading how Bernie Sanders is George McGovern. Maybe he is.)


As the Nixon era commenced, larger sections of the public turned against the war, with increasing numbers of Democrats joining them. While the language remained polite in most political mouths, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota provided spicier rebukes to the war-makers. At the Chicago convention, disaffected McCarthy and RFK supporters turned to McGovern as their antiwar symbol, none more passionate than Abe Ribicoff, a senator from Connecticut, who blasted Richard Daley's mini-police state by saying on national television, "And if George McGovern were president, we wouldn't have these Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago!"

McGovern wasn't president, but he stood in stark relief not only to Nixon, but also to pro-war figures in his Party like Henry "Scoop" Jackson, the "Senator from Boeing" (and often-cited godfather to the neocons).

Abe Ribicoff's wish for a McGovern presidency moved a bit closer to reality in 1972, as McGovern upset Party fixtures Edmund Muskie and Hubert Humphrey to grab the Dem nomination. But a seemingly chaotic convention, followed with VP choice Thomas Eagleton's admission that he had suffered depression and received electroshock treatments, sank McGovern's campaign before it took off. His attempt to unseat Nixon was probably quixotic at best, given that many mules were wary of McGovern. And the lack of presidential debates, in which McGovern would doubtless have gained strength, didn't help either. Still, in the face of these and other obstacles, McGovern ran an inspired campaign, and was the last Democratic nominee to take such an open antiwar stance. One of his commercials, where a Vietnamese mother carries her dead child down a deserted road, remains one of the strongest ads in American history.

Of course, Nixon buried him. With McGovern's loss, antiwar Dems were cast adrift both in their Party and in the national culture -- the term "McGovernite" seen as the political kiss of death. The Democrats never again dared to reach so far.