Obama is No McGovern

By Joel Joseph

The blogosphere is saturated with “Obama is like McGovern” rumors, initiated at least in part by Clinton supporters. But the trust of the matter is that Obama is no George McGovern. McGovern was the Democratic nominee in 1972 and lost badly to Richard Nixon.

1972 was a different world. There was no Internet. The United States was king of the world. The dollar was strong. The economy was robust. Gasoline was 23 cents a gallon.

Nixon outspent McGovern by nearly two to one. The Nixon-Agnew re-election campaign spent a record $61 million, while McGovern spent about $33 million.

In contrast, Obama will outspend McCain. Obama raised more than $200 million during the primary campaign. McCain raised approximately $18 million during the month of April, while Obama raised $31 million during the same month. And in April McCain was already the Republican standard bearer, while Obama was still doing battle in the primaries.

Nixon was a popular incumbent president in 1972. He won 61% of the popular vote, compared with 38% for McGovern. Nixon won 521 electoral votes and carried 49 states, while McGovern won just 17 electoral votes (Massachusetts and the District of Columbia).

The War

Nixon was an antiwar candidate ordering a gradual withdrawal of the 500,000 troops in Vietnam. The Vietnam War was was initiated by President Kennedy and expanded by President Johnson. Nixon also appealed to liberals by supporting the Clean Air Act of 1970, one the most significant environmental laws ever passed.

Bush and McCain, on the other hand, have been unrepentant hawks on the war. McCain’s remark that we will have troops in Iraq for 100 years is likely to be repeated ad nauseum during the campaign. The country now opposes the Iraq War two to one. In 1972, almost 60% of Americans approved of the way Nixon was handling the war.

The State of the Economy

In 1972 the economy was good. The economy in 2008 is in a recession. There was a small trade deficit in 1972 of $5 billion compared with today’s whopping $750 billion deficit. The US dollar was the undisputed king of the world in 1972 and the rest of the world was cheap in terms of dollars. We had no trade at all with China until 1972 when Nixon opened up that Pandora’s box.

In 1972, US car manufacturers dominated the domestic marked with 85% of the domestic market. American workers were happy. Their fringe benefits and retirement accounts were safe and sound. In 2008, it is hard to find anything made in the USA. At the same time health insurance and retirement benefit are being reduced or eliminated. Workers are not happy now.

The Popular Vote

McGovern won only 25% of the popular vote in the primaries, less than Hubert Humphrey. Obama has won a clear majority of the popular vote in the primary campaign. McGovern came from a small state (South Dakota) and failed to carry his home state as well as Obama’s home state of Illinois. While Obama will not carry South Dakota, he will carry Illinois, as well as some traditionally Republican states like Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado. Had Gore, or Kerry, won those three states he would have been president of the United States.

In addition, Obama is primed to carry North Carolina and Georgia, states that have been Republican bulwarks for 30 years. Obama won those two southern state primaries by wide margins, and he brought out the vote. In North Carolina he garnered 875,000 votes, 56% of the Democratic vote. McCain won 75% of the Republican primary ballots, but only 381,000 total votes, less than one-half of Obama’s total. In Georgia, Obama won 66% of the votes, a total of 700,000 votes, while McCain, with 300,000 votes, lost the election to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Democratic votes outnumbered Republicans in Georgia by a wide margin.

Speaking Out Loud

McGovern was not a great speaker. Obama is one of the best public speakers of the past 50 years, often compared to Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy. McCain is at best a mediocre speaker.

With Obama’s speaking skills, proven fundraising ability, and with his antiwar and economic position in sync with the American public, Obama is no McGovern. In contrast to the election of 1972, Obama will swamp McCain, just like the last Arizona senator (Barry Goldwater) to win the Republican presidential nomination was overwhelmed in 1964.

Joel Joseph worked on the McGovern campaign in 1972. He is chairman of the Made in the USA Foundation, which promotes American-made products in the US and overseas. Email JoelDJoseph@gmail.com.

From The Progressive Populist, July 1-15, 2008

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