George McGovern, Rest In Peace
Bill Kauffman, writing six years ago for The American Conservative, reminded us that the real "George McGovern, dyed deeply in the American grain, is a hell of a lot more interesting than the burlesque that was framed by his neocon critics" — Come Home, America. An excerpt:
- Look: George McGovern was a liberal Democrat. He voted for social-welfare programs of every shape and size; his philosophy then and now was a product, he says, of the Social Gospel movement, which translates Christianity into an interventionist welfare state.
But at its not-frequent-enough best, McGovernism combined New Left participatory democracy with the small-town populism of the Upper Midwest. In a couple of April 1972 speeches, he seemed to second Barry Goldwater’s 1968 remark to aide Karl Hess that “When the histories are written, I’ll bet that the Old Right and the New Left are put down as having a lot in common and that the people in the middle will be the enemy.”
“[M]ost Americans see the establishment center as an empty, decaying void that commands neither their confidence nor their love,” McGovern asserted in one of the great unknown campaign speeches in American history. “It is the establishment center that has led us into the stupidest and cruelest war in all history. That war is a moral and political disaster—a terrible cancer eating away the soul of the nation. … It was not the American worker who designed the Vietnam war or our military machine. It was the establishment wise men, the academicians of the center. As Walter Lippmann once observed, ‘There is nothing worse than a belligerent professor.’”
Try to imagine a Democratic backbencher, let alone a presidential candidate, saying as much today. No wonder the scriveners of the Suffocating Center have no more potent imprecation in their thesauri than “McGovernism.”