The Corner

McGovern Was His Own Man

George McGovern, who died today at age 90, should be remembered for two things by conservatives.

One was his crushing loss (49 states to one!) to Richard Nixon in 1972 as the Democratic candidate for president, which signaled how very far out of step with the country’s political mainstream liberals had fallen.

But McGovern’s loss was not an unalloyed victory for the Right. Conservatives swallowed their doubts about Richard Nixon in order to prevent a “liberal with terminal hemophilia” from entering the White House. Nixon went on to disgrace himself, leaving as his legacy not only Watergate but also wage and price controls, the Environmental Protection Agency, and countless other big-government interventions. Would the country have been better off if it had elected honest George McGovern as president in 1972 rather than a scheming Richard Nixon? It’s an open question, but I plump for McGovern — we would have been spared Jimmy Carter and might have wound up with Ronald Reagan in the White House four years early.

George McGovern was an honest man. A fighter pilot in World War II, he was always honorable in dealing with his Senate colleagues, and he was a man of his word — albeit seriously misguided when it came to both domestic and foreign policy.

#ad#But, in his later years, surprisingly, McGovern became an ally of conservatives on a few key issues. He wrote a famous op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in 1992 in which he recounted how he had gone bankrupt trying to run a Connecticut hotel. One of his biggest challenges had been dealing with myriad federal and state regulations:

I wish during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made be a better U.S. Senator and a more understanding presidential contender. . . . We intuitively know that to create job opportunities, we need job entrepreneurs who will risk their capital against an expected payoff. Too often, however, public policy does not consider whether we are choking off these opportunities.

Toward the end of his life, McGovern was also a key ally in the fight to defeat so-called card-check legislation. It became the No. 1 priority of union bosses after Obama’s election in 2008, because it would provide a way to bypass the requirement for secret-ballot elections to unionize a company. Instead, under card-check rules, a company’s employees would be declared pro-unionization, as having selected a union, when a simple majority of workers had signed a card — often in the presence of union organizers — stating support for such a move.

McGovern lobbied Congress against card check, and he also appeared in an ad sponsored by a pro-business group that called secret ballots in union elections a “basic right.”

“It’s hard to believe that any politician would agree to a law denying millions of employees the right to a private vote,” McGovern said in the ad. “I have always been a champion of labor unions. But I fear that today’s union leaders are turning their backs on democratic workplace elections.” In a follow-up interview with the Hill newspaper, McGovern said that a secret ballot is fundamental to the American understanding of democracy: “When we elect a president, sheriff, or member of Congress, we walk into the voting booth and pull the curtain free of anyone trying to twist our arm.”

No one ever could twist George McGovern’s arm — either when he was wrong or when he was right. The prairie populist was his own man throughout his career, and the Democratic party and the country are both the poorer for his loss.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Why Wasn’t Andrew McCabe Charged?

The Justice Department announced Friday that it is closing its investigation of Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s former deputy director, over his false statements to investigators probing an unauthorized leak that McCabe had orchestrated. McCabe was fired in March 2018, shortly after a blistering Justice Department ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Why Wasn’t Andrew McCabe Charged?

The Justice Department announced Friday that it is closing its investigation of Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s former deputy director, over his false statements to investigators probing an unauthorized leak that McCabe had orchestrated. McCabe was fired in March 2018, shortly after a blistering Justice Department ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The Roger Stone Double Standard

Whether Roger Stone, the loopy, self-aggrandizing political operative, deserves nine years in Supermax for obstructing an investigation into Russia–Donald Trump “collusion” is debatable. Whether the powerful men who helped create the investigation that ensnared Stone have been allowed to lie with impunity ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The Roger Stone Double Standard

Whether Roger Stone, the loopy, self-aggrandizing political operative, deserves nine years in Supermax for obstructing an investigation into Russia–Donald Trump “collusion” is debatable. Whether the powerful men who helped create the investigation that ensnared Stone have been allowed to lie with impunity ... Read More
Elections

There’s Zero Chance Bloomberg Would Pick Hillary

There’s no better evidence that Mike Bloomberg’s chances of getting the Democratic nomination are on the rise than the fact that the opportunistic Hillary Clinton is already trying to grab a piece of the action. The Drudge Report startled the political world on Saturday by noting that “sources close to ... Read More
Elections

There’s Zero Chance Bloomberg Would Pick Hillary

There’s no better evidence that Mike Bloomberg’s chances of getting the Democratic nomination are on the rise than the fact that the opportunistic Hillary Clinton is already trying to grab a piece of the action. The Drudge Report startled the political world on Saturday by noting that “sources close to ... Read More
Religion

Getting Real About Christianity

Charlotte, N.C. -- There were women weeping in a chapel here. One woman named Veronica was nearly inconsolable. She was talking about the crucifixion of Christ as if it was happening right then and there. She was feeling it. She was seeing it as the consequences of her sins. She was overwhelmed by the love of a ... Read More
Religion

Getting Real About Christianity

Charlotte, N.C. -- There were women weeping in a chapel here. One woman named Veronica was nearly inconsolable. She was talking about the crucifixion of Christ as if it was happening right then and there. She was feeling it. She was seeing it as the consequences of her sins. She was overwhelmed by the love of a ... Read More