Thursday, October 18, 2012

Godspeed, Senator

George McGovern, former Senator from South Dakota and the 1972 Democratic Presidential nominee, is dying.
He was the last of the liberal breed, a dyed-in-the-wool group of mostly Democrats who fought hard for the rights of minorities and women (which are actually a majority in this country) and for the poor and hungry. This last was largely motivated by an incident during his tenure in the Air Force, where he saw first hand the devastation war can bring to a people. After World War II, he flew supply missions to northern Italy where he saw people dying of hunger in one of the most fertile regions of the world.
Indeed, President Kennedy saw fit to name McGovern the first Food For Peace director of his administration. 
Odd that program no longer gets the kind of attention it used to, eh? Must have been the victim of budget cuts.¹
McGovern ran against Nixon in his re-election bid and was hampered form the outset by two things: his choice for Vice President, Senator Tom Eagleton, had been given electroshock therapy for depression which forced McGovern to replace him with Sargent Shriver, and of course, the whole Watergate era, when Nixon decided to not only illegally influence the outcome of the Democratic primaries but to illegally influence the outcome of his re-election.
You youngs can Google it.
Anyway, he came up with some novel and creative proposals in the course of that campaign, like fighting bad economic times by giving everyone in the country a $1,000 tax credit. Oddly, this was badly received by conservatives, who have little problem doling out money now when things are tough.
Indeed, it was Milton Friedman himself who proposed it, and Richard Nixon even included a similar proposal in his Family Assistance Program (yes, that's FAP).
McGovern, in large part, solidified my liberal viewpoint, which was largely formed by the Kennedys. He made it cool to care about people and cool to think that the government could do more, much more, to help those trampled underfoot in a horrific economic machine.
I will miss your voice, Senator.
¹ The program does still exist and was re-authorized under the 1996 Farm Bill