Wow, I’m extra special super angry with a side of fries right now. I was going to sit down before my laptop today and write an article criticizing the connections between Senator Sanders and Senator McGovern from 1972, then some guy from Townhall named Michael Barone had the same idea as me and published his column the same day I was going to publish mine.
Well, actually, I disagree with his reasoning for why McGovern lost, so I might as well go ahead and write the article anyway. But if you haven’t read Barone’s article, it’s quite good. I’d recommend reading it before you continue on with mine, in fact.
You more than likely have heard this claim before, if the Democrats nominate Senator Sanders, it will be just like when they nominated Senator McGovern in 1972. For those who don’t remember, that led to the 3rd largest landslide in the popular vote of the 20th century of Nixon winning 60.7% of the popular vote (Roosevelt won 60.8% in 1936 and Johnson won 61.1% in 1964).
The first time I heard this claim was from Politico writer Alan Greenblat’s article “Are Democrats Headed For A McGovern Redux?”.
As Trump continues his Nixonian campaign of white cultural-grievance politics, Democrats appear consumed by the same squabbles that destroyed them in 1972.
Let’s get a few things out of the way, comparing Trump’s White House to Nixon’s White House, while not wrong, is misleading. Trump’s first term ventures started already at the levels of the end of Nixon. Remember, Nixon never even got impeached, yet Trump was impeached within his first four years. Remember, not even Woodward and Bernstein knew about Watergate until the very end of the election season. Yeah, it would help if every columnist in the country making this comparison actually read All The President’s Men.
Let’s also not forget that Nixon’s economic views were quite different than those of Donald. Remember, Nixon seriously considered the idea of Universal Basic Income in the style of Andrew Yang. He also created the Environmental Protection Agency, first proposed an insurance mandate (an idea which was the basis of the Affordable Care Act) and had a top marginal tax rate of over 70%.
While it would be hard to call Nixon a full on economic progressive, at the very least he would be a left-of-center on economics by today's standards. I’ve even known progressives who have called Nixon “the last half-way decent Republican President.” To put it simply, while the progressives did hate Nixon, the hate they harbored towards him was nothing compared to the hatred they have of President Trump.
For that matter, we should also look at what caused McGovern to lose. The war in Vietnam was becoming less and less popular, and America was not against anti-war candidates. Remember, it was the anti-war duo of Senator’s McCarthy and Kennedy that caused President Johnson to not run for re-election.
So why did Senator McGovern lose? One word: Hippies.
Those guys were the biggest fear of regular Americans, with there draft dodging, drug use, and — some term for abortion that starts with “d”. Nixon even called McGovern the candidate of “Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion.” Amnesty in those days referred to legal forgiveness for draft dodgers, not for illegal immigrants.
While Bernie has some crazy fans on College Campuses, they are laughed at while hippies were feared. Nixon famously started the War On Drugs because, to quote an aid of his, “we couldn’t make it illegal to be against the war [in Vietnam] or Black.”
To put it simply, unless Bernie’s fans start getting fear, which does not seem likely, the electoral failure of McGovern is not going to be relevant to the possible failures of Sanders.