United States Elections: Presidential Elections (1972)

1972 presidebtial election
Figure 1.--Here Boy and Girl Scouts carry flags into the Republican National Convention. The renominatiion of President Nixon was a foregone conclusion. The contest for the Democratic nomination was a more raucaus affair.

President Nixon had little opposition in the Republican primaries and was easily renominated at the Republican Miami Beach Convention. The Democratic primary race was more turbulent and included some bruising primary contests. Senator Muskie and Senator Humphrey withdraw from the campaign. Senator George McGovern of South Dakota with the most anti-War record was nominated by the the Democrats on the first ballot at their Convention. The focus was on Senator McGovern'a anti-War stance. Less notuiced at the time was the increasingly leftward drift of the Democratic Party and McGovern's support for sweeping changes. There was support for the Senator's anti-War stance, but not for the increasingly leftist drift of the Democratic Party. President Nixon in accepting the nomination said, "It has become fashionable in recent years to point up what is wrong with the American system. The critics contend that it is unfair, so corrupt, so unjust that we should tear it down a substitute something else in its place. I totally disagree, I believe in the American system." The Republicans successfully depicted Senator McGovern as too liberal for America. He was unable to shake that depiction. Senator McGovern failed to achieve traction with the American public. Even his anti-War position won him few votes despite the increasing unpopularity of the Vietnam War. Reports of unfair campaign practices surfaced, but appeared in the back pages of newspapers. Two weeks before the election, Secretary of State Kissinger announced that 'peace was at hand'. President Nixon won reelection in a huge landslide. Soon after his reelection with a huge mandate, newspapers and television news began giving more attention to the Watergate breakin and the connection with the President's reelection campaign. This would eventually lead to his resignation. He was replaced with Vice-President Gerald Ford. Most failed presidential candidates rapidly fade from the political scene, President Nixon's comeback was an exception. Senator McGovrn would, however, have a huge impact on the Democratic Party, remaking it as a much more leftist oriented Party.

Presdent Nixon (1969-73)

Richard Milhous Nixon was the 36th president of the United States. Nixon was an inteligent, experience man when he became president. His essential amprality, however, was to result uin a failed presidency. He is most remembered for his Vietnam War policies and the Watergate scandal which resulted in his resignation, the only president ever to do so. Nixon was a highly competent negotiator with considerable understanding of world affairs. Nixon and his foreign affairds adviser Henry Kissinger ended the participation of U.S. combat troops in the Vietnam War by pulling out U.S. forces. They initiated relations with Mainland China and at the same time the Soviet Union--an impressive achievement. They helped end a war between Israel and the Arab countries. The oil embargo placed by the Arabs on America had a major impact on the resulting recession.

Vietnam War

The continuing Vietnam War was a major influence on the election. It was becoming more and more unpopular with an imptient American public. The Anti-War Movement used arguments that stressed not only the loss of American life, but of Vietnamese life. The arguments used were largely an inditement of war itself--any War. The concern over Vietnamese life soon evaportated after American departed Vietnam and the North Vietnamese began to eliminate the oppoition. The War, however, largely determined the nomination of outspoken Vietnam War critic,South Dakota Senator George McGovern.

Republican Nomination

President Nixon had little opposition in the Republican primaries and was easily renominated at the Republican Miami Beach Convention. They also reominated Vice President Spiro Agnew.

Democratic Nomination

The Democratic primary race was more turbulent and included some bruising primary contests. Senator Muskie and Senator Humphrey withdraw from the campaign because of poor performances in the primaries. Senator George McGovern of South Dakota with the most anti-War record was nominated by the Democrats on the first ballot at their Convention. Sentor McGovern got off to a bad start. The Convention choe Senator Egleton, buthe had to withdraw. He was replacd wirg Seargent Shriver. The focus was on Senator McGovern'a anti-War stance. Less notuiced at the time was the increasingly leftward drift of the Democratic Party and McGovern's support for sweeping changes.

Shirley Chishom

Shirley Chishom made news a as the first African-American woman elected to Congress. She made the record book again by becoming a presidential candiade (1972). And she surprised everyone when she went to see the revrting arch-segregationist George Wallace in the hospital (May). He has been severely wounded in an assaination attempt in Laurel, Maryland. The media covered the visit, more so than her candidacy. They wondered why she would be so concerned about Wallace give his views. Chisholm explained that it was important in a democracy to respect the poinions of others without '"impugning the motives' and 'maligning the chaacter' of one's opponents. Any other approach she maintained , was to encourage 'the same sickness in public life that leads to assasinations.' [Fitzpatrick] Conpare the example of this gracious ladt to the hateful tatemets of Congresswoman Maxine Waters and her advocacy of violence.

American Independent Party


Campaign

There was support for the Senator McGovern's anti-War stance, but not for the increasingly leftist drift of the Democratic Party. President Nixon in accepting the nomination laid the foundation for the campaign, "It has become fashionable in recent years to point up what is wrong with the American system. The critics contend that it is unfair, so corrupt, so unjust that we should tear it down a substitute something else in its place. I totally disagree, I believe in the American system." The Republicans successfully depicted Senator McGovern as too liberal for America. He was unable to shake that depiction. Senator McGovern failed to achieve traction with the American public. Even his anti-War position won him few votes despite the increasing unpopularity of the Vietnam War. Two weeks before the election, Secretary of State Kissinger announced that "peace was at hand".

Election Results

President Nixon won reelection in a huge landslide. The election turnout was lowest voter turnout for a presidential election since 1948, with only 55 percent of the electorate voting. The strong klead President Nixonhad in the polls mayhave been a factor. Another factor was the 26th Amendment which expanded the franchise to 18-year-olds, many of whom did not vote. The President carried a remrkable 61 percent of the vote. Senator Govern garned only 38 percent, one ofthe poorest showings in Ameican electiion history. Nixon won 520 electoral viotes, all of the states except for Massachusettes and Wasington, D.C.

Watergate

Soon after his reelection with a huge mandate, reports of unfair campaign practices surfaced, but appeared in the back pages of newspapers. Soon after the election, newspapers and television news began giving more attention to the Watergate breakin and the connection with the President's reelection campaign. Congressional hearings were a national sensation. Senator Sam Ervin attrcted much of the attenton. He proved a bit of a ham. Peter Rodino, Chairmanof the House Judiciry Committee conducted fair hearings and hired a compeent staff to conduct the only really respected impeachment hearings in history. [Drew] They would eventually lead to his resignation. He was replaced with Vice-President Gerald Ford.

Senator McGovern as a Small Businessman

Senator McGovern wa a good and decent man. He served as a bomber pilot in Worl War II. It was his anti-War position that won him the nomination. Most failed presidential candidates rapidly fade from the political scene, especially candidates who lose in a landslide like Senator Mc Govern. President Nixon's comeback was an exception. Senator McGovrn would, however, have a huge impact on the Democratic Party, remaking it as a much more leftist oriented Party. While he lost the election, he won a fight within the Party that Vice President Wallace had begun 30 years earlier. McGovern's momination meant the victory of te Democrtic doves over the Truman Cold War warriors. It would be these Democrats that would withdraw financial support for South Vietnam after the withdrawl of American combat troops. They would also resist President Regan's efforts to defeat the Soviet Union in the Cold war. The Party rewrote its rules making it esier for political outsiders to gain the nomination. Georgia Govenor Jimmy Carter would be the first neneficiary. Senator McGovern's proposal of $1,000 giveaway to every American was criticised as 'Demogrant'. With the Obama presidny, much largrgive awaus have been champiobed unabashedly by the Party. President Obama has appointed some very radical people from the Party ranks. Interviews of the delegates at the 2012 Convention made it clear that many rak and file Democrats had largely Socialist views, although Democrats prefer ton use the term 'Progressive'. The Congressional Democrats and now the Obama Administration have championed a wide range of enviromental and safty reguations as well as other socil programs such as presuring financial institutions to make low interest loans. While Senator McGovern largely ithdrew from politics he pursue a life-long ambiton to purchase and operate an inn--the Stratford Inn in Connecticut. As a small businessman and inn operator, he had to deal with the host of regulations his Democratic Party had vigorously championed. The Senator's Inn failed, in part because of a recession, but also because of a myriad of lovcal, state and Fedral elctions,. He wrote abot his experience in 1992, "My business associates and I also lived with federal, state and ocal rulesthat were all passedwith the objective of helping employees, protecting the environment, raising tax dollars for schools, protecting our customersfrom fire hazzards, etc. .... Ehile I never have doubted the worthiness of any of these goals, the concept that most often eludes legidlators is" 'Can we make consumers paythe higher price for the increasing operating costs that accompanypublic reguation and govenment reporting requirements with reams of red tape. (readers can see the Senator's entire op-ed on Opinion.Jounal.com. ["George McGovermn"]

Sources

Drew, Elizabeth. Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon's Downfall.

Fitzpatrick, Ellen. The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women's Quest for the American Presidency (Harvard University PressL 2016).

"George McGovern", Wall Street Journal (October 23, 2012), p. A20.








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Created: 8:44 AM 11/5/2012
Last updated: 8:39 PM 6/1/2017