Opinion / Politics

Presidential Politics 2020 – Strangely Like 1972

PresidentWatch out for historical precedents. While some get miscast, misconceived and misapplied, others jump out – begging for recognition. If the Sanders, Biden and other Democratic campaigns are paying attention, one election cycle is front of mind. By all appearances, 2020 is fast becoming 1972. For Trump voters, this is heartening. Already, the die may be firmly cast.

In 1972, George McGovern was Democratic nominee for President. An anti-establishment socially liberal, pro-government, anti-gun, pro-abortion, anti-war, anti-defense, and proud left-leaner, McGovern’s Democratic Party platform was heavy on giveaways, including a Yang-like family grant of $2,400. Where that money would come from was never explained.

The analogy to Bernie Sanders is not miscast. The closer one looks, the larger history looms. In 1972, America was fraying. Drug abuse was rising, violence in vogue, anti-traditionalism being pushed, patriotism being dismissed, and disunity widely recognized – in some places embraced.

While Democratic House Speaker Carl Albert would never have ripped up a State of the Union delivered by Republican President Richard Nixon, deep party divisions were afoot – both between the two major parties and within the Democratic Party.

Like Bernie Sanders, George McGovern was an outsider, outlier, and outcast. Like Sanders, he had galvanized anti-establishment feelings within the wider Democratic base. He drew younger voters, who opposed war and felt an all-powerful “government” could fix things.

If not overtly “socialist,” promising free healthcare, education, weather control, abortion on demand, and money on trees, McGovern was anathema to many – including many Democrats. He oversimplified what most understood were complex social, economic, security, and international dilemmas, often variegated and not subject to one-size-fits-all solutions.

Like Sanders, McGovern had run in the prior cycle, lost that nomination to an inveterate insider, Hubert Humphrey – former senator and vice president, not senator and Secretary of State. By 1972, McGovern had the angle, outdistancing the former vice president, as Sanders has Biden.

Like Biden, now 77, Humphrey was aging – but just 61. Like Biden, Humphrey had baggage from his vice-presidential days. He was a consummate insider, not “hip” like McGovern. Sanders at 78 seems more “hip” than Biden – even with new “fighter jock” sunglasses.

But the comparison to 1972 gets tighter. Beyond the divided nation, popular but polarizing President, domestic disaffections, international discord, national war-weariness, and the insider-outsider division inside the Democratic Party, something else was at work. It is again.

In 1972, McGovern’s supporters felt passionate, more so than Humphrey’s.
McGovern’s supporters were vaguely angry at Republicans and at their own party for trying to marginalize, diminish, ignore and overrule them. Unfairness in 1968 blossomed into belligerence.

As Sanders’ staff is doing, McGovern’s rushed to prevent an insider-takeover at the convention. The 1972 Democratic convention was rough, rancorous, and unruly, later described by the New York Times as a “disastrous start to the general election.”

Meantime, the Republican President – Richard Nixon – was running strong.
While he later fell to Watergate travails, he enjoyed 62 percent approval in late 1972. If not “making America great again,” he did manage to open China, found peace with adversaries, boosted the economy, and resolved to get America out of a tortuous time of warfighting.

Against that backdrop, McGovern’s enthusiastic following – and Humphrey’s anti-Nixon advertising – could neither unite Democrats nor create the synergy needed to oust Nixon. Quite the reverse: Despite high negatives – which dogged Nixon – the President was able to lower unemployment, boost growth and provide stability, although he wrestled rising inflation.

The parallel is imperfect, but a close-up of Democratic candidates in 2020 reveals forbidding similarities. Sanders, like McGovern, outflanked all the niche candidates, including Ted Kennedy and Ed Muskie, to capture the nomination. Yet most Democrats were not with him.

Like Democrats today, McGovern collected celebrity endorsements – which proved worthless. He had support from countless Hollywood names, including Carole King, Lauren Bacall, James Taylor, Paul Newman, Linda Ronstadt, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Barbara Streisand, and that ubiquitous trio “Peter, Paul, and Mary.”

Big names translated to nothing, in part because McGovern was different; some branches you just cannot graft. Besides, average Americans saw the world through their own eyes, not some train “500 miles away,” ridden and written by Peter, Paul, and Mary.

The economy was good, international trade, security, and America’s influence growing, old wars slowing, and some disunity becoming old hat.
Americans did not see themselves in McGovern, even if he thought they would buy his leftism. They did not thrill to Hubert Humphrey, either.

Instead, Americans liked – for the moment – the horse they were on, and Nixon was handily reelected in 1972. Moreover, Nixon was reelected on a massive landslide, all but burying McGovern and his progressive, leftist agenda.

On the numbers, Nixon ran the table. He took 520 electoral votes to McGovern’s 17. He produced a 23-percent popular victory. The 1972 electoral map was Nixon red, except for Massachusetts and DC.

So, how does this translate? To be sure, no one knows. But historical precedents are worth studying. Even at this moment, a vortex is sweeping former Vice President Biden into the role of former Vice President Hubert Humphrey. A progressive outsider, Bernie Sanders, is aping George McGovern. An incumbent president, disinclined to war, is on the rise.

Notably, few McGovern voters supported Humphrey in 1968. Distraught Humphrey voters did not vote for McGovern in 1972. Sanders voters – already sidelined in 2016 – are unlikely to pour out for a moderate if Democrats tip the scales in 2020. At the same time, moderate Democrats are not likely to climb aboard the Bernie bandwagon.

Much can happen in nine months, but history suggests Americans do not care what Hollywood starlets, self-satisfied singers, and media think.
They care about life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, their enduring right to speak, worship, assemble, and defend themselves.

In practical terms, they want to keep what they earn. They want less government, not more. They care about family, job, home value, quality of work, education, and healthcare. They want a solvent nation, solid respect abroad, no derision of patriotism, no knocking the flag, no nobbling border barriers, or diminishing America’s past. The year 2020 is not 1972. But if history is any guide – Americans want liberty more than lunacy. We will see in November.

If You Enjoy Articles Like This - Subscribe to the AMAC Daily Newsletter
and Download the AMAC App

Sign Up Today Download

If You Enjoy Articles Like This - Subscribe to the AMAC Daily Newsletter!

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

It amazes me the hate I hear for our President in St. Petersburg, Florida. Now he’s
blamed for handling coronavirus mismanagement. Shocked to see Bloomberg signs in
yards, just because he’s a billionaire and anti Trump. God Help America.

Earle Bluff
3 years ago

Very thoughtful, incisive article. Interestingly, George McGovern was 1st Lt McGovern in the US AAF in World War 2, did 35 combat missions (against National Socialism), and was allowed by God to come home in 1945; he saw his share of war horrors from the sky. In the book I read (do not remember the title-however there are several regarding his service), he apparently was a pretty solid leader. What happened? I do not know why he was so left politically as time went on. The comparison with Bernie is wise to focus mainly on what happened during the campaign. Whereas McGovern had profitable service to his country during WW2, what did Bernie have? Senator Sanders virtually had no job until elected to local government, was (and still is) a literal lover of all things socialist (do not know too many people who honeymooned in the USSR!). Also, in 2020, we see an exceptionally Divided Democratic party. The circus of vindictiveness is so noticeable: no unity. Being a Republic has much more definite direction compared to the results we see from the extremes occurring from democracy. No system perfect, but it benefits to figure out the better. Proverbs 3, v 5 – 6.

Susan Smith
3 years ago

Bloomberg actually says that his reason for running is to oust Pres.Trump..now what kind of positive message is that? Dems sure hate success..it takes away their reason for being..which boils down to doling out small tidbits to the peasants, while enriching their elitist selves. Bernie is no different, he likes his millionaire status obtained from never working an honest day in his life…just another lifelong political hack, much like Biden.

Steve F.
3 years ago

We must not only vote Trump/Pence 2020 but also give them a House and Senate that will help the President instead of fighting him at ever turn.

Pat R
3 years ago

It would appear history does in fact repeat itself, even in one generation. Wealthy oligarchs still trying to rule the world. It will only happen when Almighty God says it’s time, because the end is finally coming.

Eleanor Harrington Foyle Gallardo
3 years ago

Since 1972 there was onLy Massachusetts that was blue, compare the growth of blue of today

Ross Schriftman
3 years ago

Having been a delegate candidate for Hubert Humphrey as a 19 year old in 1972, I lost to the McGovern candidates. My mom and I went to the 1972 convention in Miami. We spoke to many of the core Democratic leaders there like labor leaders. They were very fearful that McGovern would be blown out. They were right.

As “liberal” as McGovern was, he was not as far left as Sanders and the Democratic Party today is one that I don’t recognize anymore with their far left socialist ideas. I left the Democratic Party in 2012. Obama’s leftist programs like Obamacare which did terrible damage to my health insurance clients and my business as an insurance agent was the final straw. This was sad for me as I had run for State Rep. 3 times and once for County Controller. I am now helping our Republican Congressional Candidate.

Socialists used to get 2 or 3% of the vote. Now Sanders is the face of the Democratic Party. Very scary.

Joseph Chevalier
3 years ago

Didn’t some cartoonist in 1972 show Richard Nixon cutting out the Massachusetts star on the U.S.A. flag after being re-elected? I predict essentially the same landslide for Pres. Trump as well. Bloomberg? Seriously? He will go the way of Mitt Romney, perceived as an elitist by the Democrat Party. For now, too early to tell, surprises are possible. Ed Muskie was the presumed Democrat nominee until a flap over his use of the term “chinook”. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. As for 2020, what if many Democrats re-registered as Republicans & voted for Bill Weld in Republican Primaries? Trump could be out & a Libertarian Republican would be in the White House. The Democrat Party may as well self-disband, as the Whig Party did in the 1850’s. Fine with me. Meanwhile, never mind Bloomberg, watch out for Tom Steyer.

Dona Becker
3 years ago

Please, God, let it be so.

Dave K
3 years ago

one big difference between 1972 and 2020 ….
50 years of Leftist indoctrination in our public schools.

Ed Martin
3 years ago

These Communist must be stopped at any and all cost. We can never coexist in peace with them……

Betty Councill
3 years ago

I agree and pray that you are correct.

3 years ago

Please VOTE for the sane, responsible candidates for President, in the Senate, and in Congress on Nov. 3rd, 2020. We must return to reliable citizens to run our “great USA.” Young folks, who have never had major bills to pay, do not understand the rules of Socialism.=, and that everybody is in the Stock Market–banks. hospitals. our pension funds, etc,,, All people should study (and understand) ECONOMICS. Amen,

3 years ago

Yes, but!

The progressives this time are in a better situation especially with more than 70 years of the younger generations experience with a public school agenda which has been de-spiritualized and misshaped in order to win over the support of the youth. We should add that the predominant attitude of many youth today is despair and concern for the future,not to mention thier student loan debt which is obviously part of theirworries.So while this election cycle may ,hopefully, still have enough support from the older evangelical generations, I hope the conservatives are taking note of what thier primary objectives should be, going down the road.

Wesley Hay
3 years ago

This is a good article. An op-ed piece for sure. I agree there are similarities between the 1972 and 2020 election campaigns
the Democrats are running. I think the people were less terrible than these . Almost all of the Democrats running are lying,
making huge outrageous statements (Elizabeth Warren stating the first day she is in office, she is going to “abolish the student debts”! a President has no authority to do such a thing…there are lots more lies from most of them) Well it is definitely good news for Pres. Trump!

Beverly Skinner
3 years ago

I thought that was what we stated in 2016!!! I guess we will have to TELL THEM AGAIN!!! TRUMP 2020!! Maybe they will GET IT THIS TIME!!!

3 years ago

Americans truly deserve peace and liberty. From the lunacy that is now occurring

Roger Davis
3 years ago

Bloomberg seems to be a threat but I think President Trump will be re-elected unless we have a depression due to the Feds under Obama and now under Trump creating too much national debt. Another concern is the millennials and others not understanding socialism and its threats to our

John Karkalis
3 years ago
Reply to  Roger Davis

Well, Roger, let’s hope the millennials are too preoccupied with tree hugging and other “New Age” pursuits to show up on election day.

3 years ago

Trump is running against Soros, Bloomberg (his money), Steyer and a few other unnamed liberal tycoons. He is not running against the
DNC or dem party both of which are irrelevant.

3 years ago

Bernie will out- last Bloomberg. Neither has much personality but Bloomberg has none. Bernie has passion and Bloomberg acts as if he has been ordered
to run. Bloomberg has no compelling ideas. Just money. So what ? The greatest advantage that the US ( not american), the US voter has is always being
underestimated. Our greatest power. Someone has convinced Bloomberg that the US ( not american) , the US voter will be overwhelmed with his
ad time. One debate, or 2 at the most, will make Bloomberg look silly. We are down to Bernie, mayor Pete, and maybe Amy. All are a piece of cake for Trump.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x