Saturday, October 27, 2012

Recommended Reading

George McGovern died last week while I was either in the midst of writing a recent post on politics, or responding to comments on it. It was 40 years ago that McGovern first ran for president, bucking the odds and party establishment to secure the Democratic nomination, only to lose by a landslide in the general election. If you'd like a better understanding of that period of history, don't bother with The Making of the President: 1972 or anything "respectable" like that. Instead, put your trust in the good gonzo doctor:

"If the current polls are reliable... Nixon will be re-elected by a huge majority of Americans who feel he is not only more honest and more trustworthy than George McGovern, but also more likely to end the war in Vietnam. The polls also indicate that Nixon will get a comfortable majority of the Youth Vote. And that he might carry all fifty states... This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes... understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon. McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose... Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?"

To be fair to Tricky Dick, the U. S. involvement in the Vietnam War did end on his watch--but only after he first expanded the war to Cambodia, essentially destroying that country in the process--KJ


  1. 1972 was my first opportunity to vote i think my decidng issue was proposition 19 the the decriminalization of marijuana in California. That was also why I chose McGovern over Nixon voted in the presidential election. As I remember I on no other issues on the ballot. Regardless of his views on pot, McGovern failed to get much of the vote from any demographic. But I have to admire his moral courage in going against the labor bosses who ruled the deomocrats at the time.

    1. Well, Mike, according to Thompson's book, McGovern's views on pot led the Nixon campaign to suggest that he might be for the wholesale legalization of all drugs (he was not). McGovern was accused of being for the 3 A's: Acid, Abortion, and Amnesty (the last was in reference to draft dodgers)

      Also according to Thompson, AFL-CIO leader George Meany was so incensed when he found out that McGovern had secured the nomination, he jumped through the plate glass window of his Miami Beach hotel room (since no other news source confirms that particular occurance, Thompson MAY have been exagerrating)

      Thanks for commenting, Mike.

  2. Gosh... I am so old but I remember this election and the shock the Nixon got re-elected.
    I am not sure what happened but maybe McGovern came off so liberal and rather elitist ... I need to think about what was it ?
    The war, the draft, Vietnam, Kennedy and the riots it is all one jumbled up all together awful years.
    Hunter S, Thompson wow what a hoot !

    I can't wait till this election is over. No one talks about what they are going to do but how awful their opponent is.
    I am voting for the candidate who call me less !
    I am so tired of it all and so are my friends.
    Great post today. I was wondering if you would comment about George McGovern.

    cheers, parsnip

  3. Well, parsnip, if by "elitist" you mean McGovern held unpopular views, yes, I suppose he did and that's why he lost.

    Thompson was indeed a hoot. That's him to the left of McGovern in the above photo.

    Glad you enjoyed the post, parnip. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Kirk, my first vote for president went to Richard Nixon in '68. It happened because I believed he had a "secret plan" to end the war, or at least he said he did. I believe now his secret plan was to announce at the end of his first term he'd set a time-table for us to be out of Vietnam.

    I believed in '68 — naïvely, as it turns out — that the Republicans would do their best to end the war. None of us reckoned with Henry Kissinger.

    So, disgusted by the whole thing, in '72 I voted for McGovern, thinking — and there's that problem again, "thinking" — that he could win, that the public would want to get us out of that war.

    I now believe that in some diabolical design or conspiracy, McGovern was actually manipulated into place by Republicans. I'm not usually a big conspiracy fan, but in retrospect he just seemed so decent that he didn't have a prayer against Satan-incarnate, Richard Nixon.

    I've been a Democrat ever since, and although I live in the reddest state in the country, Utah, I am a true-blue Dem.

    1. Postino, your comment reminds me of that scene in ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (I can't seem to write anything without bringing in a pop cultural reference) where Deep Throat says to Woodward/Redford something like, "Don't you understand? The White House wanted Muskie to drop out of the race, and he's dropped out!" The Watergate scandel, after all, started with the break-in at Democratic headquarters, and I may be wrong, but I don't believe the exact reason for the break-in has ever been discovered, so you're theory doesn't seem all that far-fetched to me. Having said that, I find it just as easy to believe that Democrats were just fed up with the party establishment after Vietnam, the same way I was fed up after Iraq and voted for Obama over establishment favorite Hilary Clinton. Either could be true, in my opinion. I was in the fifth-grade in 1972, so I have to kind of look through all this in a rear-view mirror, which is why I appreciate all these comments.

  5. I remember it all vividly. SDS was no longer a functioning organization by 1972, but I was still involved in the anti-war movement. Even though Nixon said he'd end the war, I didn't trust him for a moment. 1968 was a pivotal year in many ways. The country began sliding into the dark side, as did much of the world. 1972 sealed it, and the 60s were over.

    1. You were a member of the SDS? Wow!

      Jim, I know you read Erin O'Brien's blog, and have probably read her arguments for bringing back the draft as a way of preventing future misguided wars. I personally find that arguement flawed, as the draft was already in place at the BEGINNING of the Vietnam war, at that didn't exactly prevent an escalation. Still, I wonder if first changing the draft, by changing it to a lottery, and then ending it altogether, didn't take the sails out of the whole anti-war movement. After all, a big chunk of the 18-year old vote went to Nixon. !8-year olds in 1972 looked a lot like hippies to the fifth-grade me, but that was apparently more cosmetic than anything. If you have any thoughts on this Jim, I'd love to hear them.

    2. As an addendum to my "cosmetic" statement, I not long ago saw old black-and-white footage on Rachel Maddow's show of the Berkeley Free Speech protests, which I believe were organized by the SDS. THOSE students were quite clean-cut, conservative-looking even. Can't judge a book by its cover.

      Since a few of you are describing your political journeys, I should tell you mine. I started voting Democratic right after high school not because I had a problem with Reagan's hawkish foreign policy or his--what's the best way to describe it?--hawkish domestic policy, but simply because I was put off by the whole Jerry Falwell-Moral Majority thing that the GOP had latched on to. I voted Democratic for 20 years without thinking of myself as either a liberal or a progressive because of that. Middle-of-the-road was fine with me. It was only when I saw Clinton backsliding on even some civil liberty issues--what I care about the most--did I feel the need to reconsider the logic of centrism. Good for playing it safe, but not good at raising issues. I also saw that civil liberties by themselves made little sense if not accompanyed by a larger social justice. And finally, it was the decision, supported by such mainstream organs such as The New York Times, to go to war with Iraq that made me see the drawbacks of centrism.

    3. Yes, Kirk, I was a member of SDS in the late 60s and early 70s. I always thought that the end of the draft killed the momentum of the anti-war movement. Not to be cynical, but the fear of being drafted and sent to Vietnam was a driving force behind (and why wouldn't it?). But the war wore on, escalated still even more, and for what? I still don't know, really. I can understand (in some sick way) the wars in the Middle East, where oil is involved. But I never figured out the reasoning behind the Vietnam War, or even why we still have such a hard on for Cuba.

    4. Thanks for commenting further, Jim. I assume the US involvement in the Vietnam War (I have to phrase it like that, as the war went on a whole two years after we finally pulled out) lasted as long as it did because we didn't want to LOSE, not to communists, and really, not to anybody. I was in high school during part of the Iran hostage crises, and there were a lot of people at the time who were saying we should bomb, even nuke, the hell out of that country, even if all the hostages were killed in the process, as American prestige was on the line. I hate to admit it, but I was a bit sympathetic to that view. I don't think that way anymore, but my country/myself is a powerful concept, one that can lead to supporting our leaders in all kinds of misguided military adventures. But that really only explains why the American people tolerated such an escalation. Had Nixon just pulled out, saying it was Lyndon Johnson's war, and not his, maybe the American people would have went along with that as well. Johnson supposedly went into Vietnam because he felt he couldn't bring about sweeping social changes without also proving he was tough on communism. Nixon? He had no sweeping social changes, and had proven he was tough on communism when he went after Alger Hiss in the '40s. Writer Gary Willis posited that in Nixon and Kissinger needed to escalate the war in Vietnam so they could then normalize relations with China, which they felt would split the communist world. In other words, the escalation was politcal cover. A pretty bloody cover, I dare say.

      Why do we still have a hard-on for Cuba? The votes in Florida, that's why.

      Reading the above makes me wonder if the anarchists don't have the right idea, after all.


In order to keep the hucksters, humbugs, scoundrels, psychos, morons, and last but not least, artificial intelligentsia at bay, I have decided to turn on comment moderation. On the plus side, I've gotten rid of the word verification.