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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Tuesday, July 15, 2003


The McGovernator,1,4071304.story?coll=la-sunday-commentary

posted by Trammell at Tuesday, July 15, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Okay, okay, I know that McGovern can be a sensitive topic for Dean lovers, but this LA Times op ed hit me like a two-by-four while visiting with friends in Los Angeles this weekend. I actually read it aloud to a large-ish group of largely non-political but progressive friends who knew little about Dean, and it really floored them all. This of course launched a larger conversation about Dean himself, and we picked up some supporters! I realiized while we chatted that not one of us in the crowd was older than ten during the 1972 election, and most of us were far younger. None of us really knew some of the facts that McGovern relates so effectively in this essay. Though McGovern does not -- wisely, I think -- mention Dean by name, it is hard to imagine that he is not a Dean fan. Snips:

These days, my name is back in the news. I'm being held up as some kind of sober warning to Democratic candidates. Don't be another George McGovern, the warning goes. Don't be too liberal. Don't be too outspoken. Watch what you say and play to the middle, so that you don't end up losing 49 states, too.

It may not surprise you that I regard this as political baloney. I said exactly what I believed in 1972. I told the truth while my opponent betrayed the American public and violated the law repeatedly, engaging in campaign finance dishonesty and illegal wiretapping, invading the confidential files of a doctor, urging the CIA to halt an FBI investigation — to say nothing of running unethical and unlimited campaign advertising that distorted my positions on major issues. These kinds of tactics got him elected — but they also made him the only president in our history forced to resign in disgrace.


Of course, we all like to win — especially against great odds. And I think it's extremely important for the Democrats to win in 2004. But not at the price of their souls. I won a lot of elections in my life, many of them as a liberal in conservative South Dakota, by saying what I believed. As a junior senator from a sparsely settled farm state, I won the presidential nomination in a field of 17 tough contenders, including Hubert Humphrey, Ed Muskie and Henry Jackson. I began with these words: "I make one pledge above all others: to seek and speak the truth."


Nixon had said in seeking the presidency in 1968 that he had a secret plan for ending the war. But once in office, he continued the war for four more years, during which time we suffered the loss of 40% of the Americans who died in that war. I believe that despite my loss, my campaign in 1972 made clear to the public, Congress and the world that nearly 30 million Americans wanted a president who would end the war immediately. No war could have continued long after that election.


I also wish more of our elected officials would raise hard questions about the Patriot Act, which really ought to be called the Anti-Bill of Rights Act. Some searching questions should also be directed to the so-called Homeland Security Act, which has created an enormous, costly bureaucracy that will add little to our security while increasing taxes and red tape.

With the 2004 race about to begin in earnest, I would only add: Give me a presidential candidate who speaks the truth as he sees it and I'll show you a candidate whose campaign, win or lose, will be good for the nation.

I'm glad that McGovern is here with us and chose to defend his real record rather than allow the Republican and DLC spin to stick without a fight. It's well worth a full read, and I'm curious what others think, so please post your comments!


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.