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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Don't blame me

I voted for George McGovern. And I didn't vote for Mitt Romney.

The passing of McGovern, the former South Dakota senator and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, reflects the true closing of era that has shaped our politics, good and bad. McGovern was the first vote I cast in what proved to be a spectacularly unsuccessful campaign in which he carried only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

And while McGovern ran such a poor campaign, marred by liberal divisions and horrific campaign planning such as a 3 a.m. nomination acceptance and the unvetted Thomas Eagleton vice presidential nomination, the 1972 election also planted the seeds the seeds of Watergate and the only resignation of a sitting president in the nation's history.

McGovern's lonely triumph also help cement Massachusetts' current status as the oddball "liberal boutique" that has produced three presidential nominees in the last 24 years, including the rudderless Mitt Romney who began his political career running to the left of Ted Kennedy only to fall off the right edge of the spectrum today.

The 1972 campaign established a range of sentiment toward the Bay State nationally that runs somewhere from bemusement to contempt, much of it built upon conservative vilification stemming from that vote and the turn of events that led to Nixon's downfall.

It was the foundation of the Watergate dirty tricks effort -- initially aimed at what was expected to be a Kennedy presidential run. It escalated to Lee Atwater's efforts to "strip the bark off" Michael Dukakis in an effort to make the unlovable George H.W. Bush more palatable to voters in 1988 and to the swift boating of John Kerry eight years ago.

It was even at the core of Romney's 2008 and current campaigns until Our Man Myth made a sharp left turn in the first debate and embraced his own gubernatorial record.

All this flowed from a decent and honorable man who jumped to the national spotlight in 1968 as an unsuccessful stand-in for the slain Robert F. Kennedy; a man who turned his attention to fighting hunger after being dumped from the Senate in the Reagan 1980 landslide.

McGovern's honorable life stands as testament to the man. But his place in American history books will be as someone whose flawed presidential bid raises a raft of unanswerable "what if" questions.

Thank you for your service and rest in peace senator.

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