The headlines today could have been about ex-president George McGovern. But the Marine bomber who became the anti-war candidate in 1972 didn't win the election. The press in 1972 were busy laughing over the impending landslide that would re-elect Richard Nixon, and only two guys, Woodward and Bernstein, seemed serious about pursuing any of the rumors of dirty deeds that "Tricky Dick" was up to.
It would be two years after McGovern lost to Nixon that the Watergate scandal broke, and the President of the United States, sweaty and shaken, scowled his resignation on national television, and not long after, gave his sick smile as he waved a farewell, taking a helicopter to obscurity.
George McGovern's loss to Nixon was a disaster unequaled in American politics. He won only one state, and it wasn't his home state of South Dakota, it was Massachusetts. (The popular vote was a somewhat less humiliating 47 million to 29 million.) Young people and free thinkers wanted to recover from the hell of the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968 and the running of Hubert Humphrey against Nixon. Humphrey, you may recall, was the status quo candidate chosen after Robert F. Kennedy was murdered. McCarthy didn't get the nod, nor did "Pigasus," the live pig that the Yippies brought to the convention for a laugh. They were rewarded with tear gas. Phil Ochs was so distraught that he used 1968 as the date of his death on his tombstone for his "Rehearsals for Retirement" album cover.
But for many who grew up with The Beatles, and progressed along with Lennon to political issues and revolution, 1972 was the first time they could vote in a presidential election, and having McGovern running against Nixon and the war seemed to signal one more chance for sanity, good will, and morality. Instead, the war continued, and conservative, backward thinking prevailed. Until Watergate finally drove Nixon out. But a year or so after that, Lennon was admitting on stage, "OK, flower power didn't work...we'll try something else." And for Phil Ochs, there was nothing left to try except making a noose out of a rope.
You can read up on George McGovern, dead at the age of 90, via many sites on the Internet. You can even read books by McGovern himself, including an unusual take on Abraham Lincoln, a tome on world hunger (his cause since 1981 when he left the Senate) and a greatly praised, candid and moving book on the fate of his alcoholic daughter. Here at the Illfolks blog, it's with sadness that his passing is noted, especially the final fade, which included the inevitable "hospice care." When a loved one goes into "hospice care," you accept a certain reality, and the finality, and it's a strange twilight-zone kind of time of mourning, acceptance, and as long as the patient is able, being able to hold on for what is in essence, the long goodbye.
Being a music blog, your download is David Frye's "Folsom Prison Blues," sung as Nixon. On his blistering album, "Richard Nixon: A Fantasy," Frye imagined the long, hellish roasting of Nixon, from conviction to jailing, to even an execution. From having a landslide victory to being buried in scandal and disgrace...that was Richard Nixon, who died years ago pretty much as Mr. McGovern has now...after failing health, and a period of being "unresponsive," as family gathered to await the final breath.
A few extra reporters, a few breaks...it could've been President McGovern in 1972. He lost, but for 40 years after, his run remains a legend for its nobility of purpose. He is mourned as a man of courage and principle. His name is remembered with respect.
David Frye sings: Richard Nixon FOLSOM PRISON BLUES