Sunday, July 15, 2007

George McGovern's 85th Birthday
Gail Heriot

Here's a confession that loyal Right Coast readers might not expect: I was a volunteer for the McGovern campaign in 1972. (It would please me to believe that some of you are thinking that I'm too young to have been around in 1972, but alas, time is marching by rather quickly these days.  At least I can say that I was only 14 years old when I first pounded the pavement for the illustrious man from South Dakota.) 

I was happy to read that former campaign staff members held a special birthday celebration reunion for Sen. McGovern on Saturday.  And I'm genuinely sad that I missed it (and not just because it would be an interesting political anthropology lesson).  If there was any part of the festivities that would have been open to a lowly precinct worker who wasn't herself old enough to vote, I would have enjoyed attending.  I am in DC this month, so it would have been easy (although I might have had to leave early, since I had to go to the annual ... uh ... Federalist Society Barbecue in the late afternoon.)

I think I've always had conservative/libertarian instincts.  But in 1972, it would have never have occurred to me that's what they were.  And it certainly never would have occurred to me to vote for (or rather volunteer for) a Republican candidate.  But why should it have?    Richard Nixon wasn't a conservative in any sense of the word that I understand.  Even putting Watergate aside for a moment, there's not much to love there.   Nixon's answer to the Cold War was detente.  His answer to our economic woes was wage and price controls.  And his answer to the underrepresentation of blacks in building trades was affirmative action preferences.  Why should he have any appeal to a conservative?  I honestly can't say for whom I would vote if my 2007 self could somehow be transported back to 1972.

Oh well.  Happy BIrthday, Senator McGovern.  And may you have many more.  I suspect that I'm not your only campaign worker to have changed her mind about a lot of things.  In one way or another, we all have.  And we're all just the same.  Thanks for the memories.

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Gail Heriot


I've alwasy found it curious, and difficult, to reconcile Mcgovern's awful politics with his background in South Dakota and his service as a bomber pilot in the War.
There is a story you especially will be interested in if you are not already aware. When he was piloting his Superfortress back to his base in the southern theatre after bombing German positions, his crew worked on freeing a remaining bomb stuck in the bombay. When that was accomplished--they would not be able to land with it-- and the plane being over Italy, he found an unpopulated section of countyside and let it loose from four or five miles. As the bomb approached the ground the crew saw with trepidation it might be heading directly into a farmhouse. It was noon, and the bomb did indeed hit it directly.
McGovern never stopped wondering about that incident and what happened to it's occupants, and spoke of it at a conference in Italy in the seventies. Word got around, and the family of the farmhouse met with McGovern and informed him they had seen the plane, and the bomb, all in time to evacuate.
I've wondered though if the bombing of cities affected him in similar ways as it did Vonnegut, or if those politics were already in him.

Posted by: james wilson | Jul 15, 2007 10:28:37 PM

While Nixon may not have been a conservative in terms you would prefer, in comparison to Mcgovern and his party at that time, Nixon occupied all the territory to the right of Marx...well, maybe not Marx, but surely Carter.

Posted by: josil | Jul 18, 2007 6:39:02 PM