Monday, December 12, 2005

Gene McCarthy, R.I.P.

Former Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.) died this past weekend. McCarthy is best known for seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 1968. He was an anti-war candidate running against an incumbent of his own party, Lyndon Johnson. In 1968, the Vietnam War was full blown, the death toll was mounting, and anti-war sentiment was strong and widespread. McCarthy became the standard bearer for the anti-war wing of the party when it appeared to be a hopeless quest. His success in the New Hampshire primary, receiving over 40% of the vote against an incumbent president, caused Johnson to withdraw from his re-election bid and gave Robert Kennedy the courage also to enter the contest. Vice President Hubert also entered the race after Johnson withdrew and won the nomination but lost the general election to Richard Nixon.

What many people have forgotten is that most of McCarthy's vote was a protest against Johnson. In a poll after the New Hampshire primary, over 60% of people who voted for McCarthy wrongly thought he was a hawk on Vietnam.

McCarthy was an honorable man who disagreed with his country's policy in Vietnam, and he conducted his campaign generally without resorting to distortions of his opponents' records and statements. The anti-war Democrats today do not follow his example.

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