Monday, October 22, 2012
McGovern's death reminds us of a tragic moment
The passing of Senator George McGovern reminds us that it is possible for the wrong person to win an election. McGovern, a Democrat, ran in 1972 the most unsuccessful presidential campaign in American history: he was beaten by the slate of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew in a landslide: every state but Massachusetts and the District of Columbia supported the Republican ticket. But in less than a year Agnew was forced to resign because of charges that he had been involved in extortion, tax fraud, bribery and conspiracy. The next year, on August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon himself resigned, having been implicated in the Watergate break-in. Both Nixon and Agnew were guilty of major criminal behavior before the election took place but they took office with the largest mandate in history. Can we believe that McGovern would have been a better president? He would at least have been a very different president, and it is tempting to assert that he would have been better than Richard Nixon.
But elections turn on the stories that the candidates tell, and in the end the candidate that tells the most convincing story wins.
Is there anything to learn from this incident in the past?