Sunday, October 21, 2012

George McGovern (1922-2012)

By Michael J.W. Stickings and Mustang Bobby


I was born in 1972, after the U.S. presidential election of that year

As my own political views developed, in the '80s and '90s, it took me a long time to come around to George McGovern. I was a conservative back then, mostly, and for too long, even after becoming a Democrat, I bought into the idea of McGovern as the radical peacenik who represented what was wrong with the Democratic Party.

But as I matured, my views shifting leftward and appreciating and identifying with American liberalism (more accurately, progressive liberalism -- I term I use for my views now) more and more, I came to see McGovern as a hero.

Yes, he lost the '72 election, but that was also the year of Watergate, and Nixon's massive victory was hardly the great victory for the Republican Party, and for conservatism, that it seemed initially to be. It was, more than anything, a victory for head-up-the-ass jingoism. Besides, that was a crazy year, and the country was not about to send Nixon packing, not yet -- Watergate and the rest of the dirty tricks and "ratfucking" were hardly necessary.

Perhaps McGovern wasn't the best candidate the Democrats could have picked that year, but he stood firm for progressive values at a time when it seemed only the counter-cultural fringe cared. And while his name may subsequently have been dragged through the mud at the hands of a media establishment increasingly controlled by the Republican noise machine, and by conservatives propagandizing about a supposedly conservative country that rendered McGovern's views extremist as they pulled the country further and further to the right, I would say he was without question a man well ahead of his time.

It is simply wrong to judge him solely, and without context, on the basis of how he did against Nixon in '72. He was a war hero, awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross during World War II. And he was a successful legislator, first a congressman (1957-61) and then a senator (1963-81), and he remained active in the Democratic Party and an effective advocate for progressive politics after he left office.

He was right about so much, even if it wasn't so apparent at the time, and history, I believe, has fully vindicated him.

A great liberal voice has gone silent, but his legacy will live on.

And we must continue the struggle for goodness and decency that he so valiantly led.


From The New York Times:

George McGovern, the United States senator who won the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 1972 as an opponent of the war in Vietnam and a champion of liberal causes, and who was then trounced by President Richard M. Nixon in the general election, died early Sunday in Sioux Falls, S.D. He was 90.


To the liberal Democratic faithful, Mr. McGovern remained a standard-bearer well into his old age, writing and lecturing even as his name was routinely invoked by conservatives as synonymous with what they considered the failures of liberal politics.

He never retreated from those ideals, however, insisting on a strong, "progressive" federal government to protect the vulnerable and expand economic opportunity while asserting that history would prove him correct in his opposing not only what he called "the tragically mistaken American war in Vietnam" but also the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Forty years ago, I cast my first vote in a presidential election for George McGovern. I've never regretted it, and based on the behavior of the other party since then -- from Watergate to Romnesia -- it was the right thing to do.

The photo of Mr. McGovern was taken by me in August 1972 when he was campaigning near Washingtonville, New York, and I was there with my brother visiting our Aunt Emily. She was a huge supporter of the senator, so we went to see him, and I took my camera.

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  • Ratfucking?! Ding! Ding! Ding! You said the secret word and win a hundred dollars!

    I think what is most telling about McGovern (although it says even more about us then and now) is that if you ask someone today about McGovern's policies at then, they will agree with them. Sure, at the time he was some radical lefty peacenick. But in hindsight, who was right: George McGovern or the American people? (Or George Romney for that mater!)

    Just for the record, I'm glad someone around here is older than I am. And Mustang Bobby: very cool photo. I wish I'd met the man.

    By Anonymous Frankly Curious, at 7:37 PM  

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