The first presidential candidate I ever voted for has died. Former Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota.
I was 22 in that 1972 election. Back then you had to be 21 to vote.
I had recently completed three years in the Army — safely in Germany, even though I was in the service during the height of the Vietnam War, serving 1968 to 1971.
I voted for him because of his opposition to the Vietnam War.
I was chagrined when I heard him say something to the effect (I could not readily find the exact quote) that he would go to Hanoi personally and beg for our prisoners back if that would be what it took to get their release.
The interesting thing about this Vietnam era dove is that he was a decorated World War II combat bomber pilot. He saw action. So many of the hawks (those pushing war) then and now never saw any action and were never even in the service.
Mr. McGovern was an unabashed liberal to the end. He died at age 90.
He of course lost that presidential bid in a major landslide. Richard Nixon won and then won re-election and then became the first president to resign from office as the result of the Watergate scandal.
I could not stand Nixon for so long, and he certainly had an evil side, but in retrospect I think he probably was the more practical choice for president, even though things did turn out badly in the end.
(It is a trajedy that the lost cause of the Vietnam War continued and so many more had to die, and I do not include that factor in my summation that Nixon, who pushed a phony secret plan to end the war in his campaign, was the more practical choice.)
McGovern was a good man and certainly helped a lot of people with his liberal agenda, or progressive agenda (those two terms are often used interchangeably, and I can’t go into all that now, but they are not always the same).
I read in an obituary today that he was able to get elected to office in a Republican state in part by gaining the support of farmers and others who became Democrats during the Depression New Deal era when Democrats enacted social programs to help the down and out, which at that time included a large portion of the nation’s population.
Since theoutn government social programs have become so much a part of our society that they are taken for granted. Few people remember what is was like to be really down and out, with nothing to eat and no place to live. And even though many face tough times today, even long-term unemployment, the safety net is such that the conservative no-tax, no social programs people can convince people to vote against their own good. Somehow people assume the government will always be there or just has to be if they run into a patch of trouble.
But back to that 1972 election: Even though public sentiment had been turning against the Vietnam War, you really can’t just be a one-issue person or at least it did not work in that election (well, there were other issues, such as civil rights, but McGovern was the anti-war candidate and that was the focus).
That is why I consider myself a middle-of-the-road or centrist person today when it comes to politics.
I like to look at the whole picture.
But we need men of conscience and compassion. George McGovern was one and the good part is that he worked his whole life in the service of others. The part I particularly liked about the obituary I read is that after finally losing his senate seat in South Dakota he chose not to go into lobbying (selling out). He did not parlay his time in office into a financial bonanza as so many do today.
I know there is another former Democratic senator from that general area of the country who became a health care industry lobbyist. I respect McGovern, not that guy.
There is nothing wrong with becoming rich. But it is a moral disgrace to turn your support from the population as a whole into a resume and entrée into the vile world of influence peddling where you use propaganda to help special interests to the detriment of the public whose support you used as a stepping stone.