I was 13 when George McGovern was the Democratic nominee for President, a nomination garnered, in part, thanks to the tireless efforts of Richard Nixon’s henchmen to keep Ed Muskie off the top of the Democratic ticket. McGovern, a decorated World War II bomber pilot, was derided as cowardly loser, and carried only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia in 1972.
I had a sign in my bedroom, taken from a McGovern office in New York, which read: Nixon has a secret plan for ending the war. He is going to vote for McGovern.
Sadly, the word’s from McGovern’s 3AM acceptance speech in 1972 still apply today:
We must now show that peace and prosperity can exist side by side. Indeed, each now depends on the existence of the other. National strength includes the credibility of our system in the eyes of our own people as well as the credibility of our deterrent in the eyes of others abroad.
National security includes schools for our children as well as silos for our missiles.
It includes the health of our families as much as the size of our bombs, the safety of our streets, and the condition of our cities, and not just the engines of war.
If we some day choke on the pollution of our own air, there will be little consolation in leaving behind a dying continent ringed with steel.
So while protecting ourselves abroad, let us form a more perfect union here at home. And this is the time for that task.
We must also make this a time of justice and jobs for all our people. For more than three and half years we have tolerated stagnation and a rising level of joblessness, with more than five million of our best workers unemployed at this very moment. Surely, this is the most false and wasteful economics of all.
….[A] program to put America back to work demands that work be properly rewarded. That means the end of a system of economic controls in which labor is depressed, but prices and corporate profit run sky-high.
It means a system of national health insurance so that a worker can afford decent health care for himself and his family….
So join with me in this campaign. Lend Senator Eagleton and me your strength and your support, and together we will call America home to the ideals that nourished us from the beginning.
From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America
From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.
From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor; from the prejudice based on race and sex; from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of the neglected sick — come home, America.
Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream. Come home to the conviction that we can move our country forward.
Come home to the belief that we can seek a newer world, and let us be joyful in that homecoming, for this “is your land, this land is my land — from California to New York island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters — this land was made for you and me.”
George McGovern died this morning in his native South Dakota. He had been moved to hospice a few days ago.
I can be pretty cynical about politics and politicians, but not about him. George McGovern is simply the most decent national politician in my lifetime.