Bernie-or-busters have been posting this quote from HST lately:
Before you go off on how BoBs are utterly ridiculous and coming from a position of privilege, I would argue that there’s a kernel of truth in this.
HRC cannot run on a purely anti-Trump platform. She has to stand for something. Negative campaigning is useless at best and many times it backfires.
The narrative that we need politicians to create progress is somewhat toxic. Most of the major improvements in the last century with regards to social and economic issues were fought for on the ground at the grassroots level—worker’s rights, women’s suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement, abortion rights, LGBT rights, the rights of the undocumented, Black Lives Matter, etc., etc. The politicians are always Johnny-come-lately and generally serve more as an impediment rather than an assurance to progress, no matter what political party they’re from.
Consider also that the coalition that McGovern assembled—black people, feminists, the LGBT community, student activists, and economic populists—are critical components of the modern day Democratic Party.
It’s likely that the Obama presidency would’ve been impossible without McGovern, and just sticking with the establishment would’ve delayed progress significantly.
With regards to the Nixon’s re-election in 1972, in retrospect, the McGovern total fail and the disintegration of the New Deal coalition was inevitable.
If not McGovern, the candidate would’ve been Hubert Humphrey—who was arguing for putting Communists in camps—and George Wallace who, while no longer calling for segregation forever, thought that desegregation was going way too fast.
Ed Muskie—whom HST pillories as the “compromise candidate”—was 4th place in the Democratic primaries with 11% of the vote (no thanks to active sabotage directly from Nixon.) The only thing he had going for him was that the polls said he was the only candidate capable of defeating Nixon. The top three each got a little less than a quarter of all votes.
And McGovern might have still lost even if the Democratic establishment hadn’t abandoned him (and even actively sabotaged him.) It’s difficult to unseat an incumbent president in time of war, as we’d learn again in the 2004 general election. But it might not have been as crushing of a defeat if the Democratic establishment had supported him.
Nixon only won in 1968 because LBJ bailed out, RFK got assassinated, and Humphrey was too closely identified with LBJ’s pro-war stance when 80% of the Democratic constituency voted for anti-war candidates.
If you’re a fan of neoliberalism, McGovern’s utter failure was the best thing to happen to the Democrats and paved the road to Third Way centrism and Clintonism. If you’re not, then it’s clear that running with compromise candidates like Carter and Bill Clinton might have lost more progressive ground than they preserved.
What Democrats Still Don’t Get About George McGovern • 2016 Feb 29 • Joshua Mound • New Republic
Democrats have their history wrong — and are about to make a grievous mistake • 2016 Mar 6 • Kathy Donohue • Salon