40 Years Ago: My 1st Presidential Vote, for George McGovern

I got to see George McGovern at a rally at my college, SUNY New Paltz in the autumn of 1972.

There were a LOT of people running for the Democratic nomination for President against Richard Nixon in 1972. The general consensus early on, though, was that Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine would be the selection. He had been the Vice-Presidential nominee in 1968 and had been a credible candidate in a close race. But he was sunk early on by the crying incident, which, to this day, I find utterly bewildering, and dropped out of the race early on.

This seemed to give segregationist Governor George Wallace of Alabama some momentum, much to the chagrin of all right-minded people. An assassination attempt in May paralyzed him and effectively ended his campaign.

Many of the leading candidates – Muskie, and other 1968 candidates Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy – would have been OK to me. I was suspicious of the hawkish Scoop Jackson, though, especially after he later led an “Anybody but McGovern” coalition “that raised what would be known as the ‘Acid, Amnesty and Abortion’ questions” about the South Dakotan. My preferred candidate, though, was Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm of New York, the first black woman to win a primary (New Jersey), though, by the time of the June primary in New York, the race was all but over.

Still, I liked McGovern. He was one of the early opponents to the war in Vietnam and having flown nearly three dozen missions over Nazi-occupied Europe, he had a lot more credibility than today’s chicken hawks, who haven’t seen a war they don’t want to fight, or rather, would send our young men and women to fight.

Unfortunately, his Vice-Presidential pick of Thomas Eagleton proved to be a disaster, when it was revealed the junior senator from Missouri had received psychiatric care, which was bad enough in those days but also had twice been given electroshock treatments, which brought up unfair comparisons to Frankenstein’s monster. This incident reflected poorly on McGovern’s decision-making, and eventually, he forced Eagleton off the ticket, to be replaced by Kennedy in-law and former Peace Corps head Sargent Shriver.

As you can see from these not-too-great pictures, taken by me with a point-and-shoot camera, I got to see McGovern at a rally at my college, State University College at New Paltz in the autumn. That was one of the first of many times I saw Pete Seeger perform, too.

Of course, McGovern lost that election badly, carrying only one state, plus the District of Columbia. Many folks, in 1973 and 1974, during the Watergate scandal that McGovern had complained about during the campaign, had bumper stickers that read, “Don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts,” referring to the one-state the senator carried, whether they were or not.

George McGovern died this week at the age of 90. It seems, though, that he saw vindication of his positions in his lifetime, and never sold his soul.

For instance, from his acceptance speech for the party’s nomination:
“The tax system today does not reward hard work: it penalizes it. Inherited or invested wealth frequently multiplies itself while paying no taxes at all. But wages on the assembly line or in farming the land, these hard-earned dollars are taxed to the very last penny. There is a depletion allowance for oil wells, but no depletion for the farmer who feeds us, or the worker who serves us all.”

Sounds – unfortunately – VERY Current.
A much wiser Arthur@AmeriNZ re: his feeling about McGovern, then and now.