I was 19 in the spring of 1972 and the 26th amendment to the U.S. Constitution that allowed 18 year olds to vote had just passed in 1971. I could vote. As a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee I looked forward to casting my first vote in the Wisconsin presidential primary. A man by the name of George McGovern was speaking at the UW-M Union and I was assigned to go as part of my sophomore political science class. That’s about what I knew about George McGovern.
I will never forget that night or the man as he talked and advocated for peace and his belief that government could make a positive difference in people’s lives. Don’t forget, this was pre-Watergate.
The first vote I ever cast was for George McGovern and I proudly voted for him in the fall when most of the rest of the nation was laughing at me for doing so. Two years later Richard Nixon, the Republican snake oil salesman of his time, resigned in disgrace.
I have never regretted those votes for George McGovern. And the thing I loved; he never backed down from who he was, even after his landslide defeat in ’72. He later said:
“I think one of the problems of the Democratic leadership at times has been that it has not been liberal enough. I recognize that I was overwhelmingly defeated in ’72, but I don’t regret one thing I said in that campaign. I still think it is common sense.”
I have always considered George McGovern one of the most principled individuals to engage in American politics. Today, he is close to death. Our hope is that it will be peaceful and that his family will be with him.
We will have more on this remarkable man as we feature him as our November Progressive Profile.