Tag Archives: 1972 election

Big crowds don’t necessarily mean big vote totals

I must offer a word of caution to Beto O’Rourke’s fans who take great pride in the size of the crowds the U.S. senatorial candidate is drawing as he stumps his way across Texas.

The Democratic challenger to Sen. Ted Cruz has my vote. I want him to win in a big way. Cruz hasn’t distinguished himself as a champion for Texas causes and interests; he’s more fixated on his own ambition.

Having said that, Cruz must be considered the favorite to win re-election. Yes, polling indicates a close race. However, Texas is a Republican state. O’Rourke has to to overtake The Cruz Missile quickly and open up a bit of a spread between the two of them.

How does he do that? Well, he is drawing big crowds at rallies in rural Texas. Let me caution O’Rourke’s faithful followers: Big crowds don’t necessarily translate to a winning trajectory.

Example given: the 1972 presidential campaign of Sen. George McGovern.

I was a campus coordinator for Sen. McGovern in my native Oregon. I had returned from the Army in 1970. I was disillusioned about our Vietnam War policy. I spent some time in the war zone and came away confused and somewhat embittered.

I wanted Sen. McGovern to defeat President Nixon. He drew big crowds all across the nation as he campaigned for the presidency. They were vocal, boisterous, optimistic.

My task in college was to register new voters. We got a lot of new voters on the rolls that year. I was proud of my contribution.

On Election Night, it was over … just like that. The president was re-elected in a landslide. 520 electoral votes to 17. He won about 60 percent of the popular vote.

The big crowds, including a huge rally in the final days in downtown Portland, didn’t mean a damn thing!

Will history repeat itself in Texas in 2018? Oh, man, I hope not!

It’s done; now it’s time to get used to a new era

The deed is done.

Barack Obama handed over the reins of power to Donald J. Trump. The former president and his family jetted off to California. The new president took up some business in the Oval Office before dancing the night away with his wife.

I’ll make yet another confession: I’m not yet ready to embrace fully the notion that Trump is actually, really and truly, certifiably the commander in chief of the world’s greatest military machine.

Yes, I know he is president. I know he won an election that seemingly everyone on the planet thought he’d lose bigly.

I’ve mentioned already that I’ve voted in 12 presidential elections. Five times my candidate has won; seven times he has lost. I know what it’s like to be on the short end of the vote count. Heck, the first election I voted in — that would be 1972 — my guy lost 49 states.

However, in every case I’ve been able to accept fully the outcome and move on … until now.

This one feels strangely different. It has something to do with what I still believe about the president’s unfitness for the office he now occupies. I get that not everyone agrees with me. Many of my friends here in the Texas Panhandle voted for Trump. They’re still my friends.

Still, I ask you to hang with me. I’m likely to come around.

Eventually.

Campaign button brings back cool memory

Cleaning and rearranging my desk this week brought me in touch with a memento of a long-ago event that means much to me to this day.

It is a campaign button, given to me not many years ago by a gentleman — a friend of mine — who had a similar political coming of age at the same time.

It is a McGovern-Shriver presidential campaign button.

I cast my first vote for president on Nov. 7, 1972 for Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota and former Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver of Maryland. McGovern was the presidential nominee selected at a tumultuous Democratic National political convention in Miami; his running mate, Shriver, wasn’t his first pick, as you’ll recall. The first selection was Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri, who then revealed he had gone through treatment for depression; McGovern dumped him because at the time the public didn’t understand fully that Eagleton was cured of whatever ailed him.

But that was a vote of which I remain perhaps most proud of all the votes I’ve ever cast for any candidate running for any office.

I was nearly 23 years of age. The Constitution had been amended the previous year granting 18-year-olds the right to vote. But because the voting was still 21 when I was 18, I couldn’t vote in the 1968 election — even though I had a keen interest in that contest.

My own interest came from uncertainty about the Vietnam War and whether we were engaging in a conflict that was worth fighting. I had just returned home from my own service in the Army and came away from my time in Vietnam asking questions about the wisdom of our continuing along that futile course.

There also was that break-in at the Watergate office complex that would grow into a significant constitutional crisis.

Sen. McGovern was a war hero who rarely mentioned his combat service along the campaign trail. Meanwhile, his Republican foes kept denigrating his opposition to the Vietnam War as some sort of chicken-hearted cop-out. This man knew war. He’d fought it from the air as a bomber pilot in Europe during World War II.

McGovern’s opposition to the Vietnam War didn’t sell in the final analysis. Even though public opinion was deeply split on that war, McGovern would lose the election almost immediately after the polls closed. The TV networks declared President Nixon’s re-election literally within minutes of the polls closing.

It was over. Just like that.

I had taken on a duty for the McGovern campaign in my home state of Oregon. I helped spearhead a voter-registration effort at the community college I was attending. Our task was to register young Democrats to vote that year. We did well on the campus.

As a result — I’d like to think — Multnomah County went for McGovern narrowly over Nixon that year. Mission accomplished in our tiny portion of the world.

I’ve voted in every presidential election since. This was the first — and so far only — election in which I served as a foot soldier in a cause in which I believed. By the time 1976 rolled around, my journalism career had just begun. Therefore, all I could do was vote.

The campaign button reminds me of how idealistic I was in those days. It also reminds me of how much energy I possessed as a young man who saw politics as fun, exciting and quite noble.

Age has rubbed some of that idealism and energy away. But only some of it.