Tag Archives: 1972 election

50 years ago, my heart broke

It seems like just the other day. I was a young newly married man, recently separated from the Army, attending college and working on a political campaign in which I would be able for the first time ever be able to cast a vote for the candidate for president of my choice.

On Nov. 7, 1972, I voted for George McGovern and then went home to watch the returns come in. Then, just minutes after the polls closed back east, the networks called the winner of the presidential contest.

It was not Sen. McGovern!

I … was … crushed. Fifty years later, I remain keenly interested in politics and I await the next round of elections set to occur in about 24 hours.

In those days I took my politics seriously, even more so than I do now. The decades that have gone by have taught me a lesson or two about politics. One is that no matter how hard one works to win a contest, the sun will rise the next morning and the days will go on as if nothing happened at the ballot box.

The other thing is that I rarely see issues in stark colors. I have learned to accept a lot of gray shades in virtually every issue under discussion.

However, I still take voting seriously. So much so that I refuse to vote early, preferring to wait until Election Day. I actually prefer the pageantry, if I could use that term, associated with waiting in line at the polling place.

This election is, shall we say, a big fu**ing deal!

Politicians and pundits ascribe monumental consequences to every election, be it a presidential event or a midterm election, such as the one about to occur. This midterm well might be the most critical such event in my lifetime.

Joe Biden himself has said that “democracy is on the ballot.” I accept that description.

If it goes badly when the ballots are counted, I likely won’t be as heartbroken as I was 50 years ago when my guy, Sen. McGovern, lost 49 of 50 states. It would hurt, but the sun — as we all know — will rise in the east the next morning.


Are Democrats flirting with a 1972 repeat?

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster writing an essay for The Hill newspaper, poses a serious question that Democrats need to take seriously.

Are they flirting with a re-run of an electoral disaster by nominating a “democratic socialist” to run for president of the United States?

Penn writes about Sen. Bernie Sanders, the current Democratic frontrunner for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination: Sanders is an avowed democratic socialist whose “free college” mantra has captured the party’s youth vote, despite his having turned 78 years old. For decades he has lectured against the problems of big banks, an economy that works for the few and the need for revolutionary change. It is odd — in a time of such great prosperity, low unemployment and rising wages — that his message would resonate.

Yikes, man!

He seems to suggest in his essay that Democrats could face a blowout similar to what befell them when they nominated Sen. George McGovern in 1972 to run against President Nixon. McGovern lost 49 of 50 states to Nixon. I was a college student at the time. I was dedicated to electing George McGovern to be president. I was deflated quickly after the first polls closed on Election Night 1972; the networks called it almost immediately.

I am not willing to believe Donald Trump is going to blow Sanders out the way Nixon pummeled McGovern. I fear, though, that the president would cruise to re-election, which is an outcome I sincerely do not want to happen.

If Democrats are sincere in their belief that their nominee must be the most electable person they can find, they surely can do better than to elect someone such as Sanders. He isn’t a Democrat; his Senate career has produced next to zero legislative accomplishment; he talks a good game but doesn’t deliver the goods in the form of responsible legislation.

Sure, Sanders is drawing big, boisterous crowds. So did Sen. McGovern. The 1972 crowds cheered themselves hoarse urging McGovern to go after President Nixon. He tried. He failed ā€¦ badly.

Check out Penn’s essayĀ here.

Then ask yourself, if you are as devoted to Donald Trump’s defeat as I am: Is this the candidate who can actually win this most consequential election?

Impeachment about overturning election? No-o-o-o-o! Really?

Can we dispense with the tired — and patently ridiculous — notion that Donald John Trump’s impeachment is meant to “overturn” the results of the last election?

That goofy argument is part of the White House response to the articles of impeachment that the House of Representatives delivered to the Senate, which on Tuesday will commence the trial that will determine whether the current president of the United States keep his job.

I believe I shall remind everyone of a couple of historical facts.

The House Judiciary Committee voted for articles of impeachment against President Nixon in 1974. Nixon quit the presidency on Aug. 9 of that year. He had won re-election in 1972 in a smashing landslide: 49 states, 520 electoral votes, 60 percent of the ballots cast. That impeachment effort would have reversed the outcome of that election, too.

The House impeached President Clinton in 1998. He stood trial in 1999 and was acquitted. Clinton won re-election in 1996 with a handsome margin: 379 electoral votes and a healthy plurality of actual votes. And, yes, that impeachment was intended to overturn an election result, too.

Presidential impeachment by definition are intended to do the very thing that the White House is now accusing the House of doing. I know that House members who voted to impeach the president stand behind high-minded rhetoric about “defending the Constitution.” I believe that is the case here.

However, this act also carries with it a necessary political component, which is that it seeks to correct a ballot-box mistake. Let’s not be coy about this point as well: Trump did not win in anything approaching a landslide. He pulled in nearly 3 million fewer votes than his opponent in 2016 and won because of an adroit end-of-campaign tactic that saw him win three key Rust Belt states that put him over the top in the Electoral College count.

Impeachment is meant to overturn an election? Well, as we used to say in high school: No sh**, Sherlock!

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


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 meansĀ 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 voteĀ for presidentĀ 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 mentionedĀ his combat serviceĀ 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. IĀ 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.