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George S. McGovern, R.I.P.

Over the weekend there were several requests for a thread about Sen. McGovern who died yesterday at the age of 90, shortly after entering hospice care in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This post can serve as one.Wikipedia has what seems to be a decent overview of Sen. McGovern's life and career for those looking for an introduction. The Sioux Falls Argus-Leader has collected its coverage here. Eileen McNamara, who cast her first presidential vote for McGovern in 1972, has a lovely and fiery reminiscence by an unrepentant liberal:"He was right about Vietnam, right about the disastrous consequences of income inequality and right about the man whose unprecedented resignation from the presidency in 1974 looms larger than his landslide victory over McGovern two years earlier. McGovern was the last presidential candidate unafraid to prescribe bold action in the face of seemingly overwhelming social problems....During my years in Congress and for the four decades since, Ive been labeled a bleeding-heart liberal. It was not meant as a compliment, but I gladly accept it, McGovern wrote last year. My heart does sometimes bleed for those who are hurting in my own country and abroad. A bleeding-heart liberal, by definition, is someone who shows enormous sympathy towards others, especially the least fortunate. Well, we ought to be stirred, even to tears, by societys ills. And sympathy is the first step toward action. Empathy is born out of the old biblical injunction Love the neighbor as thyself.Theres a hopelessly far left lost liberal cause for you."Please add your own thoughts, reminiscences, observations and prayers below.

About the Author

Luke Hill is a writer and community organizer in Boston. He blogs at dotCommonweal and MassCommons. 



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I suspect that part of McGovern's problem was that he was from a state with a tiny, largely agricultural population. In other words, it was assumed he must have been a hick. Bill Clinton, from Arkansas, overcame that particular prejudice and maybe even destroyed it. George McGovern, a wise man. May he rest in peace.

Love thy neighbor as thyself, says Jesus.It seems as if we as a nation are lacking a lot of self-love these days (self-love not to be confused with self-absorption, selfishness, etc.). After all, everything --- good and bad --- starts within.Rest in Peace, Senator.

George McGovern lost the presidential election in 1972 because most American voters at that time were anticommunist war-mongers in favor of fighting an ultimately losing war in Vietnam.I voted for George McGovern in 1972, and I've never regretted that I did.May he rest in peace.

My first vote for a president was cast for McGovern. The man actually stood for something. I would have voted for him over the present two. Sad news, his death, more than the loss of a man. Loss of an age of hope.

I too voted for George McGovern in 1972, and Ive never regretted that I did.I've had enough of GOP presidents who never served except on parade grounds, [except Bush 1] who can't get enough war bluster out their mouths. Tonight we will hear more from the GOP "draft dodger' and even maybe from his non serving five sons. 'take a swing'

Ron Rosenbaum has a fine tribute to McGovern at Slate: also an award-winning documentary, One Bright Shining Moment: The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern. You can see about 45 minutes of excerpts from it at those impressed by McGovern was the former president of the Jesuit university in El Salvador, Ignacio Ellacuria S.J. The story was told in the Houston Chronicle on Nov. 21, 1989, under the headline Letters from the Dead:

In one of those eerie coincidences of history, former U.S. Sen. George McGovern picked up his mail last Thursday and found a letter from a priest in El Salvador he had never heard of. The letter was an invitation for the former presidential candidate to make a speech in San Salvador. Written in Spanish, the request had been mailed in October to Rep. Joe Moakley to forward to McGovern, and had been sent to the Library of Congress for translation. After reading the letter, McGovern got into his car, and as he was driving he heard a news dispatch about the murder of six Jesuit priests in San Salvador. Then he heard the name of one of the priests: Ignacio Ellacuria, rector of the University of Central America, the man who had signed the letter.

I voted for the first time when I voted for McGovern, and I suppose I was a one-issue voter on Vietnam. I had worked for McGovern's campaign in my aggressively conservative home town, and thought, when I went back to college that fall, that I would meet more kindred spirits. Ha. The fact that so many of my fellow students on campus, even though it was the first election for Boomers in the 1950-1954 bulge, just didn't care was incredibly depressing.It wasn't until later in life that I realized that McGovern had positions on things other than the Vietnam War, and his losing seemed even more depressing.

I warmly commend Sen. McGovern's acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in 1972. Today it is easy to call up on YouTube; but in 1972, a chaotic convention delayed his acceptance until 3:00am, when the TV audience had evaporated (a portent of campaign mishaps to come). Sen. McGovern's father was a minister, and his speech shows an ease with scripture that leads in the end to a particularly lovely litany (of the American civic religion type). Readers who were not alive in 1972 might want to note for context that over 20,000 American troops had died in Vietnam during President Nixon's first term in office (out of 56,000 dead since the start of the war). This of course does not begin to comprehend the civilian deaths in South and North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

A good and decent man with a conscience that he acted on. Unfortunately, both his campaign process (chaotic at best) and his decision on his running mate (abandoning him) pushed me in my first presidential vote to lodge a protest vote for Pat Paulsen. (yes, I know, immature and tilting at windmills).McGovern's principled stand against the Vietnam war is what sealed my admiration for him. But, as many say, I don't single issue vote.

McGovern followed the essential Christian Maxim of defending the downtrodden and working to set the captives free. But he forgot the wisdom the Lord recommended when he said we should be wise as serpents while simple as doves. His failure to see that Nixon staged phony hippies to embarass McGovern was shortsighted. While many liked McGovern they were not prepared to let hippies take over the nation which "seemed" to be the case when McGovern spoke sympathetically to a set up group of hippies whom few would invite to their homes. Clinton was smarter and more effective. If McGovern had someone like Clinton as his manager he would have won.

George McGovern was a very good man. He was SD congressman and then senator when I was a kid. I recall my parents met him once and they liked him a lot.Interestingly enough, while he did not get the SD vote when he ran for president, South Dakotans readily returned him to Congress for many years after that.

If you want to read/see more about McGovern, these are definitely worth a look:1. A fine article about him by Cong. Jim McGovern (no relation) in The Nation: A good collection of videos and pictures in Mother Jones:

On Friday, October 26th, C-SPAN will be live at 2:00 PM EDT/1:00 PM CDT with Senator McGoverns funeral.

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