Sunday, October 21, 2012

George McGovern — 1922-2012

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.

His death was announced in a statement by the family. He had been moved to hospice care in recent daysafter being treated for several health problems in the last year. He had a home in Mitchell, S.D., where he had been spent his formative years.

“We are blessed to know that our father lived a long, successful and productive life advocating for the hungry, being a progressive voice for millions and fighting for peace,” the family statement said.

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.

A slender, soft-spoken minister’s son newly elected to Congress — his father was a Republican — Mr. McGovern went to Washington as a 34-year-old former college history teacher and decorated bomber pilot in World War II. He thought of himself as a son of the prairie as well, with a fittingly flat, somewhat nasal voice and a brand of politics traceable to the Midwestern progressivism of the late 19th century.

Elected to the Senate in 1962, Mr. McGovern left no special mark in his three terms, but he voted consistently in favor of civil rights and antipoverty bills, was instrumental in developing and expanding food stamp and nutrition programs, and helped lead opposition to the Vietnam War in the Senate.

That was the cause he took into the 1972 election, one of the most lopsided in American history. Mr. McGovern carried only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia and won just 17 electoral votes to Nixon’s 520.

The campaign was the backdrop to the burglary at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, and by the Nixon organization’s shady fund-raising practices and sabotage operations, later known as “dirty tricks,” which were not disclosed until after the election.

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.  (Sometime I should tell you about my great-aunt Emily Simmons Akers.  She was a true pioneer.)

7 barks and woofs on “George McGovern — 1922-2012

  1. George McGovern was my first presidential vote and I have no regrets. I believe in the things he stood for and because of him have become a Democratic Socialitst. Take care of the people at home. RIP Sen. McGovern, a true American.

  2. When I think of the opportunities America has passed up…

    Nixon beat him with 520 electoral votes. <godwin_warning> Hitler was overwhelmingly elected, too. </godwin_warning>

  3. George McGovern spoke to a small crowd of friends in our backyard along with Lud Ashley, long termed Congressman representing Lucas County. He was relaxed and funny, puzzled to find himself standing by a swimming pool in Republican dominated Wood County. He went on to lose but Ashley served another couple of terms as chairman of the House Banking Committee.

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