Sad Morning

George McGovernIt’s a sad morning. First I get news that George McGovern died after only a couple of days in hospice. Then Michael Stickings over at The Reaction reports that the new PPP poll of likely voters in Ohio gives Obama only a 1% lead over Romney. It seems like liberalism has died today.

The 1972 election is the first one that I remember. And for years it seemed that he was a joke to most people. Americans love a winner and even after Nixon’s ignoble departure from the White House, few rethought McGovern. Things only got worse during the “Reagan Revolution.” But in recent years I was pleased to see McGovern going around proudly owning the label “liberal” and explaining what it meant.

I’m not quite certain what to make of the new polling out of Ohio. For one thing, Obama has polled consistently poorly with PPP in recent weeks. I know that PPP is a liberal group, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes; the whole “likely voter” calculation is difficult. What’s more, polls have been all over the board. And most encouraging, Nate Silver (taking into account the newest PPP poll) still gives Obama a 70% chance of winning the state.

There are so many terrible things that will happen if Romney becomes president. But what I’m focused on are the long term consequences to our political system. If elected, he will dismantle our social safety net and cause inequality to go up even further. But in spite of this, the economy is set for recovery. Unless Romney really screws up, we will see about 9 million new jobs created in the next four years. This will be used by the right to claim that their policies are the reason. And the low information voters who seem to determine each election will go right along as the United States’ government becomes ever more conservative while its people remain relatively liberal.

Michael Stickings is right that we need to do all we can to win this election. And I have one more reason: let’s win this one for McGovern!

Update (21 October 2012 8:45)

From the New York Times obituary:

“I always thought of myself as a good old South Dakota boy who grew up here on the prairie,” he said in an interview for this obituary in 2005 in his home in Mitchell. “My dad was a Methodist minister. I went off to war. I have been married to the same woman forever. I’m what a normal, healthy, ideal American should be like.

“But we probably didn’t work enough on cultivating that image,” he added, referring to his campaign organization. “We were more interested in ending the war in Vietnam and getting people out of poverty and being fair to women and minorities and saving the environment.

“It was an issue-oriented campaign, and we should have paid more attention to image.”

Mr. McGovern offered his own assessment of the campaign. “I don’t think the American people had a clear picture of either Nixon or me,” he said in the 2005 interview. “I think they thought that Nixon was a strong, decisive, tough-minded guy and that I was an idealist and antiwar guy who might not attach enough significance to the security of the country.

“The truth is, I was the guy with the war record, and my opposition to Vietnam was because I was interested in the nation’s well-being.”

McGovern received the Distinguished Flying Cross in World War II.

Update (27 October 2012 9:52)

Eric Alterman has the best McGovern obituary I’ve read at the Center for American Progress. Alterman’s theme is courage—real courage, not the spray on kind so popular among modern conservatives. I don’t suppose we can repeat it often enough: it takes no courage to send other people’s sons and daughters to fight a war.

Clearly, McGovern had the kind of courage that led him to say and do whatever he thought was right, regardless of what it led others to say about him. When he felt that his party was moving too far right in 1984, he risked ridicule again by challenging his party’s presidential candidates in the primary season, even suggesting that one of his opponents and the party’s eventual nominee Walter Mondale’s calls for higher taxes to pay for essentially Republican goals was not the best direction for the Democratic Party to take. His key phrase, “Don’t throw away your conscience,” was a decidedly politics-free declaration at the time (and ours).

Here is George McGovern’s 1972 acceptance speech that no one saw:

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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