Former U.S. Sen. George McGovern has died, according to a family statement. He was 90.
You just can’t distil a person’s life into once sentence like that, especially not George McGovern’s life. What is best remembered about Mr. McGovern is the promise of a better future that he brought to America during his Presidential run in 1972.
Unfortunately McGovern lost to Richard M. Nixon, who was running for his second term. Nixon could claim that he was winning the controversial War In Vietnam (of which McGovern was an early opponent of going back to 1963) and had bettered our relationship with China. Moreover, the American Economy was healthy and even though unemployment had kicked up from 4 percent to 6 percent from 1970 to 1972, it was considered more a factor of people switching jobs than a structural problem.
In this, too, the Democratic Party was a complex mix of populists, anti-war activists, and racist segregationists, led by McGovern’s primary opponent, George Wallace. Eventually, McGovern prevailed, and said this in his 1972 Democratic National Convention speech.
But McGovern, sadly, was the second in a list of Democratic presidential contenders (the first was Hubert H. Humphrey) who failed to make a compelling case as the standard-bearer for Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in Los Angeles in 1968. The Democratic Party never recovered from the losses of both John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, and wound not really regain ground until the late 70s and Jimmy Carter.
Put that all together with the fact that McGovern himself didn’t make a compelling alternative to Nixon, and the total non-existence of a true real-time personal and social media system that would have brought Nixon to an early defeat, and McGovern was on the hind end of the biggest landslide election in American History.
Richard Nixon was reelected in 1972, only to be forced to resign in August of 1974 due to the Watergate Burglary Scandal.
McGovern continued as South Dakota Senator until his defeat in 1980. He later ran for President in 1984, but fell to the eventual Democratic Nominee, Walter Mondale. But, as the years have advanced, McGovern has remained as an engaged pundit, author, and advocate. Here, Senator McGovern warned President Obama that Afghanistan not become the next Vietnam:
Upon his passing, the McGovern family released this statement:
“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. He continued giving speeches, writing and advising all the way up to and past his 90th birthday, which he celebrated this summer.”