Tag Archives: George McGovern

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!

Recalling a great discussion among friends

This video is among my all-time favorite public television news broadcasts. It features a PBS NewsHour discussion with the late U.S. Sens. George McGovern and Barry Goldwater.

A liberal (McGovern) and a conservative (Goldwater) talked political differences between them and sought to put the 1988 presidential campaign into some sort of civil and proper perspective.

The moderator was Jim Lehrer, a fellow whose acquaintance I made while I was working in Beaumont many years ago. More on that perhaps at another time.

What Sens. McGovern and Goldwater sought to do in this discussion is delineate the differences between their respective philosophies. What is so remarkable is how much common ground these two old men had found and how they believed they found it when they served together in the U.S. Senate.

How did they manage such commonality? Well, they didn’t talk about it in their PBS interview, but I have a theory.

Their common respect was forged in their common history and their shared sacrifice during a time of dire peril for the United States.

McGovern and Goldwater served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. They both served heroically during that conflict. They brought their commonality together when they ended up in the Senate together. McGovern represented South Dakota, Goldwater represented Arizona.

They were far from the only two men of disparate philosophies to forge friendships in the Congress during their time together. I think often of how Sen. Bob Dole developed a unbreakable bond with Sen. Daniel Inouye; Dole is a Kansas conservative, Inouye was a Hawaii liberal. They, too, became brothers in arms in World War II, both suffering grievous battlefield injuries and going through rehab together. Their common suffering became their bond and it overrode whatever political differences they had while serving in the Senate.

Vietnam produced similar friendships that transcended partisan politics. I’ll cite two examples: Sens. John McCain and John Kerry both served with valor and distinction during the Vietnam War. McCain is a Republican; Kerry is a Democrat. They both worked in tandem to allow the United States and Vietnam to establish diplomatic ties long after the end of that terrible and divisive conflict.

These men all knew the meaning of sacrifice for the sake of the country they all loved.

As George McGovern told Barry Goldwater during that 15-minute PBS discussion, they have much more in common now than they did in the old days. Yes, but the common experience they brought with them to their shared public service taught them to respect the other’s point of view, that the “enemy” didn’t sit in the same legislative chamber.

Is this the year to give campaign cash?

I have had an active interest in politics for 50 years.

It probably began the moment I shook U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s hand late one night in the parking lot of a trendy Chinese restaurant just before the 1968 Oregon Democratic Party presidential election.

I wasn’t old enough to vote that year. My first vote came four years later when I cast my first presidential ballot for Sen. George McGovern.

In those five decades, though, I’ve never given money to a political candidate. Not for president. Or U.S. Senate. Or House of Reps. Or governor. Or any other state or local office.

My career path precluded that level of political activity. As a journalist in Oregon and then in Texas, I simply could not in good conscience support a candidate with money.

I never took the oath of political abstinence that many in my craft have pursued. I always voted. Many other reporters and editors have vowed never to cast a vote for a candidate in an effort to maintain some level of objectivity when covering these politicians … or commenting on them.

I’ve long understood that voting is a private matter. We cast our ballots in secret. We are not obligated to divulge for whom we’ve voted.

I departed full-time journalism in August 2012, which means I got to vote in another presidential election that year. I did so again in 2016. In between, I voted in the 2014 midterm election and have voted already in the 2018 primary; I intend fully to cast a ballot this year in the fall election.

I am facing a bit of a quandary. There are some political candidates I like — a lot! Whether I prefer them over their opponents enough to give them money remains an open question.

One disclosure I need to make: One 2018 candidate for public office, the U.S. House, is a close personal friend, a man for whom I have the highest regard. If anyone is going to get some of my dough, he is likely to be the one.

About the closest I’ve come to donating to politicians is at tax-filing time; I routinely dedicate a portion of my tax returns to public campaign financing, which I support in the strongest terms possible.

My interest in politics only has grown over the past 50 years. Even though I haven’t yet emptied my wallet. This might be the year.

Watergate: Dumbest scandal in U.S. history

Many of us are going to mark the 45th anniversary of the start of the Watergate scandal in varying ways.

Those of us of a certain age might take time to reflect on what I consider to be the most stupid, unnecessary and ridiculous political scandal of the 20th century.

On June 17, 1972, five idiots broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C.; they rifled through some cabinets, pilfered some papers and then left.

Then came the cover-up. President Nixon sought to call off the investigation being done by the FBI. It all led to the president’s pending impeachment and then his resignation from office.

Why so stupid? So pointless? So needless?

Because the president was en route to a smashing re-election victory later that year. On Nov. 7, 1972, Nixon was re-elected with a 49-state landslide over Sen. George McGovern. He won more than 60 percent of the popular vote: 47 million votes to 29 million votes. That’s an 18-million vote margin!

Every political expert in America knew Nixon would win. They knew he’d win big. Sen. McGovern didn’t have a prayer. I received my political baptism that year working for McGovern in my home state of Oregon, helping register first-time voters among college students in Multnomah County. I, too, was a college student. I also had separated from the Army in August 1970 and had served for a time in Vietnam. I wanted the war to end and I supported McGovern’s candidacy.

But McGovern’s candidacy was doomed. Nixon’s team knew it. So did McGovern’s team.

I am left to wonder 45 years after that ridiculous break-in: What in the hell did the Committee to Re-Elect the President hope to gain from such a stupid stunt?

CREEP blew it, causing their guy — the president — to try to cover it up and it all cost him his job as leader of the free world. And for what purpose?

If they ever create a college curriculum to study “Stupid Political Scandals,” Watergate must serve as the all-time benchmark for stupidity.

Needing help accepting this outcome … fully


A friend of mine has acknowledged a greater-than-normal disappointment in the presidential election result.

He said he’s having trouble accepting that Donald J. Trump is now the president-elect of the United States of America.

I am now going to admit the same thing.

Just as my friend said, I’ve voted for losing presidential candidates many times over the years. I’ve voted in 12 presidential elections, dating back to 1972. My record as of Nov. 8 is now 5-7 … that’s five winners and seven losers.

I know how it feels to be on the losing side.

This one is different than all the rest of them. It’s even different from my first vote, when Sen. George McGovern got smashed to smithereens in a 49-state blowout to President Nixon. I was young, full of piddle and vinegar, just home from service in the Army, newly married and I worked my butt off in my hometown to elect a good and decent man to the presidency.

It’s not that I believe Trump was inferior to his chief opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton. It’s deeper than that. He’s patently unfit for the office. I will maintain that belief more than likely for the entire time he serves as president.

That could change. Trump could prove me wrong. He could turn out to be a quick study. He could muster some semblance of the decorum needed to serve as head of state and the leader of our government. Trump could actually grasp the concept of limited presidential power and he could accede to the will of another co-equal branch of government, the one on Capitol Hill, aka Congress.

I cannot get past the notion, though, that he’s going to try to run roughshod over the system. That he’s going to do some incredibly stupid things, issue some incompetent — or unlawful — orders.

I want none of that to happen. I want the new president to succeed. In some perverse way, I’m actually pulling for him. I know that sounds like a huge contradiction, given what I’ve written already in this post, along with what I’ve stated in countless previous posts on this blog.

It’s not. I have declared already that I do not subscribe to the hope that he will fail. Presidential failure means failure for the entire country. I will not forsake my citizenship; I won’t move to another nation. I will stay put and speak out whenever I feel like it. I’ll praise the good things Trump does and will criticize the bad.

So help me, I cannot yet come to grips with the notion that this guy — the former reality TV celebrity, the hotel mogul, the guy who admits to cheating on his wives, who acknowledges seeking to impose his sexual will on women, who mocked a physically disabled reporter, denigrated Gold Star parents and flung insults at opponents — is about to become the 45th president of the United States.

It’s not like the previous times I’ve voted for the losing candidate. Yes, I know Trump won the election fair and square. I accept the fact that he won the required number of electoral votes. And yes … he will be my president.

I’m just having trouble moving forward and putting the result behind me.

Do I need an intervention?

Recalling the first time


I am in a reminiscing kind of mood today.

I’m thinking of the first vote I cast for president of the United States. It was 44 years ago; that’s 11 presidential elections ago! I was 22 years of age. Newly married. My wife was pregnant with our first son. I was full of exuberant idealism.

The Vietnam War was still raging. My candidate for the presidency wanted to end the war quickly. I had returned from service in the Army as confused about the war as I was when I reported for duty at a place called Marble Mountain in the spring of 1969.

He got my vote on Nov. 7, 1972. Sen. George McGovern needed a whole lot more votes than he got that day. He lost the election huge to President Nixon.

I was proud of that vote.

Eleven elections later, I am decidedly less proud of the vote I am about to cast. To be certain, my enthusiasm for presidential candidates has had its ups and downs. Some campaigns got me far more excited than others.

This one, though, feels different — and it’s not in a good way.

You might ask: Is this a difficult choice? No. Not at all. My preference is clear. Both major-party candidates are deeply flawed. One of them, though, is far more flawed than the other.

When it’s over — and I expect we’ll have a new president chosen by the end of the night Tuesday — I am going to cling to another hope.

It will be that the loser will accept the result, deliver a concession speech that at least contains a semblance of grace and agrees to support the next president.

Do I expect all of that to happen? Will the person who should lose this contest — Donald J. Trump — toss aside the stuff about “rigged elections” and do the right thing? I am not holding my breath.

However, as they say: Hope springs eternal.

Having declared my general unhappiness with the choices we face, I remain proud of the fact that I have the right to make that decision. I will go to our polling place Tuesday morning excited that I will have my voice heard.

I just wish I could be as proud of the vote I am about to cast as I was the first time.

Big crowds don’t necessarily equal big votes


I’m enjoying listening to and reading comments from Donald J. Trump’s fans — some of whom are friends of mine — boast about the size of the rallies he is attracting.

The Republican candidate for president’s rallies, they keep saying, are far bigger than those who listen to Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

That’s proof, they say, that Trump is making a comeback. That he’ll win in the end and be elected the 45th president of the United States.

I feel the need to remind them all of this indisputable fact … which is that big crowds don’t necessarily translate into big vote totals.

* George McGovern drew big crowds in 1972. They were loud, boisterous, enthusiastic and dedicated to their man. I know. I was among them. He lost the election that year by 23 percentage points to President Nixon.

* Gary Hart drew big crowds, too, in 1984 as he campaigned for the Democratic nomination. His fans were zealous. He didn’t even get nominated. The Democrat who did, Walter Mondale, lost “bigly” to President Reagan.

* Twenty years earlier, Barry Goldwater had the fervent support of the GOP’s conservative movement. They packed auditoriums and stadiums to hear their guy. Goldwater lost the 1964 election to President Johnson; yep, that was a landslide, too.

* Bernie Sanders just this year was drawing huge crowds. The crowds loved him. Did he win the nomination? No. Clinton did.

This election will decided by which candidate has the better “ground game.” Who between them has an organization ready to mobilize voters? Who is better equipped to target voting blocs? Which of them is going to develop the better ad campaign?

Crowd size? Sure, it’s nice to speak to more than just family and friends. The size of the crowds or the decibel level of their cheers, though, do not guarantee a thing on Election Day.

Memo to GOP: Let your nominee finish his race


More and more Republicans are saying it: get rid of our presidential nominee.

Dump Trump. Ditch Donald.

The latest Republican to speak out is talk-show host — and former GOP congressman — Joe Scarborough. He says Donald J. Trump has disqualified himself as a presidential candidate.


I believe I must remind Scarborough of the following: Republican Party primary voters had the opportunity all along the way to look to someone else when given the chance.

They chose to go with Donald Trump.

He won the GOP nomination fair and square. He scored a first-ballot win at the Cleveland convention.

Sure, Trump has made a hash of his campaign. His statements have boggled our minds. He is demonstrating time and time again his total unfitness for the job.

How, though, does the party ditch a nominee now?

My own sense is that the party ought to let the man finish what he’s begun. Let him complete the race. Let him continue to embarrass himself.

The party can recover. Political parties have ways to do it. The Republicans rebuilt their conservative coalition after the 1964 disaster when Barry Goldwater got trampled by Lyndon Johnson. Democrats did the same thing after getting battered by Richard Nixon’s landslide win over George McGovern in 1972.

It’s a bit late in the game for the Republican Party to change nominees now.

What’s more, as someone who has no intention of voting for Donald Trump — and who cannot stand the idea of his ever getting anywhere near the Oval Office — I plan to enjoy this supreme narcissist getting his noggin thumped.

Another GOP leader abandons Trump


I’m trying to remember the last time a major party presidential nominee suffered the embarrassments that have fallen all over Donald J. Trump.

They’re coming in the form of leaders within his own party who are saying the same thing: They cannot support his presidential candidacy.

I guess you have to go back to, say, 1972, when Democrats abandoned the candidacy of anti-Vietnam War insurgent Sen. George McGovern.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has joined the growing ranks of Republicans who are tossing Trump aside.

She writes of her opposition to Trump in a Washington Post essay:


Collins writes: “My conclusion about Mr. Trump’s unsuitability for office is based on his disregard for the precept of treating others with respect, an idea that should transcend politics. Instead, he opts to mock the vulnerable and inflame prejudices by attacking ethnic and religious minorities. Three incidents in particular have led me to the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Trump lacks the temperament, self-discipline and judgment required to be president. ”

The incidents were Trump’s mocking of a New York Times reporter’s physical disability, his suggestion that a judge couldn’t preside over a case involving Trump University because of his ethnic heritage and his ridiculous feud with the parents of a slain U.S. Army soldier.

Collins has concluded, along with others within the party, that Trump is not fit for the office he seeks.

Will she support Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton? Collins calls herself a “lifelong Republican,” which makes me believe she won’t cast her ballot for Clinton.

Still, she is denying her own party’s nominee her ultimate endorsement.

If I were a betting man, I’d bet we’ll see more of the same in the weeks to come.

Facing an unhappy choice this fall


It’s time to make an admission.

Others already have said it, but I’ll chime in with this: The election this autumn presents the unhappiest choice I’ve ever faced since I voted in my first presidential election way back in 1972.

At this very moment, I am not yet rock-solid certain what I’m going to do when I go to the polling place.

Republicans have nominated a certifiable buffoon/goofball/fraud/con artist as their presidential nominee. Donald J. Trump is unqualified at every level one can mention to sit in the Oval Office and make decisions as our head of state and government.

Democrats have nominated someone who is far more qualified — on paper — than Trump. Hillary Rodham Clinton, though, is trying to face down that darn “trust” issue. Is she to be trusted implicitly to tell us the truth when we need to know it? That is where I am having trouble with her candidacy.

Who’s left? The Libertarian ticket led by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, whose signature issue is to legalize marijuana? The Greens, led by Jill Stein?

I’ve already declared in this blog that Democrats have gotten my vote in every presidential election. The first presidential ballot I ever cast, for the late Sen. George McGovern, remains the vote of which I am most proud.

I happened to be — if my Marine Corps friends don’t object to my stealing their service’s motto — one of the “few, the proud” to vote for Sen. McGovern. Then came Watergate and the resignation of President Nixon two years later and one became hard-pressed to understand how it was that the president won by as large a landslide as he did.

The next election four years later gave me a bit of heartburn. I truly admired President Ford and I didn’t really feel comfortable with Jimmy Carter. Well, you know what happened, right?

I’ve been comfortable with my choices every election season since.

Until this one.

You can count me as one of the millions of Americans who’s unhappy with the choices we have. I’ll have made up my mind in time for Election Day.

I’ll just keep it to myself.