Monday, October 22, 2012

George McGovern was a Senator, Teacher, War Hero and Last of a Political Era

George McGovern, was a war hero, a United States Senator, a presidential candidate, and a social  activist. George McGovern died this weekend.

And with Senator McGovern’s death, so goes the last of the major presidential candidates of 1968 and 1972.

Often times we may think the current 2012 presidential campaign can be a bit discouraging and overwhelming; however, the 1968 and 1972 presidential campaigns were far more acrimonious.

In the 1968 presidential election, because of the national unrest with the unpopular Vietnam War, Republican Richard Nixon defeated Democrat Hubert Humphrey in the presidential election.

Hubert Humphrey 1911 – 1978

Despite the nation’s tiredness with an unpopular war, Nixon had pledged an honorable settlement to the conflict and the war dragged on for an additional four year of his Presidency. 

Richard Nixon Being Sworn in As President in January 1969

South Dakota Senator George McGovern while in Congress worked to end the war and was committed to ending the war during Nixon's Presidency. 

After a tumultuous political convention, McGovern became the Democratic 1972 Presidential candidate along with running mate Senator Thomas Eagleton. 

Senator Thomas Eagleton 

When Senator Eagleton had not disclosed to McGovern that he had been treated for depression, Eagleton left the ticket to be replaced by Kennedy-in-law Sargent Shriver. 

Sargent Shriver 1915-2011

Due to the winding down of the war, an improving economy, and the perception of the extreme liberal leanings of the McGovern-Shriver ticket, the Nixon-Agnew ticket handily defeated McGovern.

Nixon received 60% of the popular vote and 520 Electoral College Votes.   McGovern only won the Electoral College votes of Massachusetts (14 votes) and the District of Columbia (3 votes).

(As a side note, 1972 was my first opportunity to vote and I voted for Nixon!)

The irony of the entire Nixon-Agnew victory was that the paranoid Nixon and his team became involved in the Watergate Break-In Scandal when all polls indicated he was assured an almost certain victory.   And while the scandal was unraveling, Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew resigned due to bribery scandals that he was involved in as Maryland Governor.

Spiro Agnew  1918 –  1996

And like a good Greek tragedy, as most Americans know, Richard Nixon resigned his office when finally all the Watergate tapes indicated directly a presidential cover up in the break in.

(As an additional side note, after Watergate and Nixon's resignation, this writer dropped his registration as a Republican!)

Richard Nixon Leaving the White House After Resigning Presidency

Senator McGovern may have lost the election, but in his later years he continued as South Dakota's Senator until his defeat in 1980 and after "retiring" became known for his international work  in issues related to agriculture, food, nutrition, and hunger.

Somewhat sadly, the passing of McGovern is an ending of a very significant political era.


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