Monday 30 April 2007

Mike Gravel '08 & George McGovern '72?

Due to the immediacy of today's bloggist culture, there are perhaps few among us who have not yet witnessed Mike Gravel's sensational turn in the recent Democratic presidential candidacy TV debate. Gravel, a man who has spent the last 35 years in the political wilderness, cut a remarkable swaithe through the normal banality associated with such debates. Although given a fractional proportion of air time, he made his mark. He was refreshingly honest and heartfelt, fortified by a real sense of conviction in his beliefs.

For those of you who missed it, Gravel is very much anti-Iraq. His manifesto is simple... Get out! It's their country, let them govern it how they see fit. Garnering choruses of derision from political counterparts and television pundits alike, Gravel went as far to state he would attempt to criminalise the war in Iraq. Bush? A "felon". Senator of Alaska for two terms, Gravel is most famous for his opposition to the second draft in the Vietnam war and for ending the testing of nuclear warheads in the 1970s.

Now, while it would seem impossible for a candidate with such extreme leftist policy to ever be elected president, allow me a historical comparison. Back in 1972, the Republican incumbent Richard Nixon sought re-election against the Democrat candidate George McGovern. Parallels between Nixon and Bush - vis a vis Vietnam and Iraq - should be easily apparent, but what of parallels between Gravel and McGovern?

McGovern began his campaign in the 1972 Democratic primaries something of a hopeless figure. Deemed excessively liberal - he wanted a cessation to US involvement in Vietnam, and an amnesty for all young man who fled the country to dodge the draft - his consistency of policy and ideals throughout the primaries stood him in very good stead. Standing against the meandering flip-floping of centrist candidates like Edmund Muskie, and the almost neo-con attitudes of George Wallace, the ideals of McGovern appealed to the delegates, with him going on to win the candidacy at the 1972 Democratic Convention. It was certainly tight, but the result offered inumerable possibilities for worthwhile change.

So what happened? Certainly unaided by an eventual move towards a more centrist agenda in an attempt to garner the safe votes of central America, McGovern was unmercifully hammered by Nixon in the election. He lost every state except one, and that was not even his home state of South Dakota. The Republican machine rumbled on for another term.

So does this mean this blogger thinks the freshness and vitality of Gravel's arguments assures him the candidacy? Furthermore, does this mean this blogger expects a landslide Republican win in the next election? No, and even more so, no. I just make the comparison because in a global political climate that can allow itself so easily to cynicism and spite, any opportunity for truth and honesty should be grasped with fervour. I applaud the man for his honesty, and I genuinely wish him the best in the upcomings.
In actuality, I think John Edwards will probably be the Democratic hopeful come January '08. This is slightly depressing however, as this is the man who lost last time out to John Kerry; a non-entity of a candidate, who Dylan Moran labelled "a chin and a wig flapping in a drawer somewhere" after his election loss to Bush. I possibly paraphrase the Navan man here, but, indeed.

To further my comparison between the two men, check out the following videos: Gravel at the recent MSNBC debate and McGovern during the election in 1972 in Salem, NH. Afterwards, allow yourself a hopeful smile.


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