It was long past midnight on July 14, 1972 when George McGovern, a good and decent man, stepped to the podium in Miami Beach to give his speech accepting the nomination of the Democratic party for president. A genuine war hero who hated what the Viet Nam War was doing to the country, McGovern rode to the nomination on the scruffy coattails of the young, the disaffected, the grudge holders, the racialists – the entire victimhood society that now controls the Democratic party.
You knew this convention was going to be different when the Illinois delegation headed up by Richard J. Daley was summarily booted from the premises when challenged by a faction led by Jesse Jackson. Daley’s “elected” delegates did not contain enough women, minorities, or homosexuals according to the new party rules pushed through by McGovern and his revolutionaries. Humiliated, Daley vowed to show McGovern who ran the Democratic party in Illinois by barely lifting a finger for him in the general election campaign. Nixon gained nearly 60% of the vote to carry the state in November.
McGovern never knew what hit him. He thought that if he allowed the crazies who rioted in 1968 to take over the party, that he would expand the base and create an entirely new coalition of the young, the left, and minorities along with traditional Democratic allies like organized labor and the intelligentsia that would open a new era in government and politics.
What McGovern didn’t count on was backlash. He himself recognized this when he remarked “I opened the door to the Democratic party and 20 million people walked out.”
In Denver this year, graduates of that 1972 laboratory in identity politics are now firmly in control of the Democratic party. They have gone from revolutionaries to party insiders. They are in Congress, the Senate, the statehouse, and staff the numerous special pleader organizations and groups that form the backbone of the party. Barack Obama was all of 10 years old at the time. His running mate, Joe Biden, was part of that revolution, running his first campaign for the Senate on a McGovern platform and winning that fall – one of the few Democratic bright spots in an otherwise dismal political year.
The 1972 convention was an unmitigated disaster for the Democrats as every special interest group with a cause or a grudge got to debate their pet issue in full view of a national TV audience that dwindled as the convention droned on. The long windedness of the speakers, the confusion, the disorganization, the whole spectacle of long haired freaks wanting to legalize marijuana, lesbians wanting recognition, women’s rights advocates pressing for an equal rights amendment, and speaker after speaker trashing the United States for its involvement in Indochina went on long past midnight, even unto dawn on a few days.
This was the background as McGovern made his pitch to the country around 1:00 AM eastern time.
McGovern’s acceptance speech is a remarkable document. You can lift entire passages from the text and place them next to remarks made by Barack Obama and the only way you would be able to tell the difference was the more flowery rhetoric of the messiah.
This is from McGovern’s speech:
Yet I believe that every man and woman in this Convention Hall knows that for 30 years we have been so absorbed with fear and danger from abroad that we have permitted our own house to fall into disarray.
National security includes schools for our children as well as silos for our missiles.
It includes the health of our families as much as the size of our bombs, the safety of our streets, and the condition of our cities, and not just the engines of war.
If we some day choke on the pollution of our own air, there will be little consolation in leaving behind a dying continent ringed with steel.
So while protecting ourselves abroad, let us form a more perfect union here at home. And this is the time for that task.
But it is in the famous peroration of McGovern’s early morning tirade – “Come home, America” – that one is struck by how little the Democratic party has changed in their ideas and class conscious rhetoric:
From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America
From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.
From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor; from the prejudice based on race and sex; from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of the neglected sick—come home, America.
Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream. Come home to the conviction that we can move our country forward.
Come home to the belief that we can seek a newer world, and let us be joyful in that homecoming, for this “is your land, this land is my land—from California to New York island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters—this land was made for you and me.”
At the time, this was revolutionary. Now, it is mainstream Democratic thought. And the hard left, having clawed its way to the top of the party pyramid through sheer hard work and a dogged determination to outlast their more moderate foes are on the verge of realizing their dream of a man who talks their talk ascending to the White House.
In a very real sense, those kids in tye died shirts and bell bottoms from 1972 have indeed “Come Home.” They’re all grown up now. They are not only teachers and lawyers for special interest groups but bankers, stockbrokers, financial planners – your neighbors and friends. To one degree or another, they have made peace with “the system” they so violently opposed in their youth. But there still burns a need to “reform” that system and make it “fair” – not as a goal but as a result. There is still resentment against “the rich” and pity for “the oppressed.”
And there is still the overweening sense in their own superior ability to tell the rest of us how we should spend our money, how we should save, what we should buy, what we must eat, what we should be watching on TV or listening to on the radio – in short, an almost messianic faith in the ability of government working through their will, to make all of our lives better. We see some of this on the far right as well – busybodies who want to peak into our bedrooms or stick their nose in decisions that are none of their business. Using government for the purposes of forcing us to behave or think a certain way regardless of whether it is the right or left is just plain wrong and has no place in a free society.
But it is on the left where this impulse is the strongest. Today they seek the same top down solutions to problems – or see a government solution to something that either isn’t a problem or would curtail our freedom of choice – advocated by George McGovern in 1972. The difference is that those 1972 Democrats were outriders, amateurs trying to play a professionals game. The result was a slaughter at the polls.
But today, those kids have grown up and become professionals. They know how to run national campaigns. They have learned not to be so forthcoming in how they intend to give us “hope and change.” The more nebulous their rhetoric the better. In this, they have found the perfect vessel – Barack Obama; a man who says absolutely nothing and says it with great feeling and emotion better than anyone in American history.
If they win, we will enter an era where the majority will attempt to remake America into something more like a European social democracy. In fact, they brag about where many of their ideas come from – the failed economic models in France and Germany. Regulation of business and industry will be reintroduced. Social programs like national health insurance, top down mandated education reform, and the alphabet soup of programs for the poor will be expanded to include “the middle class” thus making more Americans more dependent on government than ever before.
I don’t mind losing if the Democrats proudly run on that kind of platform with full disclosure of how they intend to turn America into a semi-socialist state. But they don’t have the guts to do it because they know they would lose. Hence, they will continue to hide behind Obama’s soaring rhetoric that promises such a bright future but is a little hazy on the details.
George McGovern and his revolutionaries sincerely wanted to remake America because they believed what they were advocating was consistent with our democratic heritage and values. I was one of those who supported McGovern in 1972 and believed he and the rest of us would remake America into a paradise where all shared in her bounty and peace on earth would replace the endless wars and tension with the Soviet Union. Today’s left isn’t quite as idealistic. For them, it is about power and control – a far cry from the belief that we could change their world by believing in the sheer goodness of our motives.
A scant 5 years later, I realized what utter nonsense I believed when I was 18, having had my eyes opened by reading such conservatives as Hayek, Kirk, and Buckley; that government was a utility, not an engine of change; that real change occurred in men’s hearts and minds and could not be mandated by bureaucrats and pompous legislators; that the government could mitigate the effects of inequality but not cure the underlying diseases that caused it; and that there were nations that meant to do the United States harm and accommodating them only encouraged their aggressiveness.
In a fair contest between my ideology and that espoused by the McGovernites who now control the Democratic party, I would bet the farm that the American people would choose the liberty of the individual over the crushing statism offered by the other side.
Let’s hope they make the right choice in November.