A Bleeding-Heart Liberal, and Proud Of It
George McGovern died this morning. Meteor Blades has a nice piece up at DailyKos paying homage to the former US Senator and Democratic presidential candidate. Here’s a small excerpt, first a McGovern quote:
“During my years in Congress and for the four decades since, I’ve been labeled a ‘bleeding-heart liberal.’ It was not meant as a compliment, but I gladly accept it. My heart does sometimes bleed for those who are hurting in my own country and abroad. A bleeding-heart liberal, by definition, is someone who shows enormous sympathy towards others, especially the least fortunate. Well, we ought to be stirred, even to tears, by society’s ills. And sympathy is the first step toward action. Empathy is born out of the old biblical injunction “Love the neighbor as thyself.” — George S. McGovern, What It Means to Be a Democrat (2011).
McGovern and Vietnam
Via Meteor Blades:
He was approached in late 1967 to run against Lyndon Johnson, but he turned down the invitation. By 1970, however, his anger over the continuing war—now expanded into Cambodia and the subject of immense protests on college campuses and elsewhere—had grown. This spurred him in the summer of ’70 to join with Sen. Mark O. Hatfield, a decorated Navy veteran and liberal Republican—in an era when that subspecies still existed—to draft the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment calling for an end of combat operations in Southeast Asia by the end of 1970 and a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops by Dec. 31, 1971.
In support of the amendment, McGovern spoke briefly but ferociously on Sept. 1, 1970:
Every senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave. This chamber reeks of blood. Every Senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval and all across our land—young men without legs, or arms, or genitals, or faces or hopes.
There are not very many of these blasted and broken boys who think this war is a glorious adventure. Do not talk to them about bugging out, or national honor or courage. It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes. And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us.
So before we vote, let us ponder the admonition of Edmund Burke, the great parliamentarian of an earlier day: “A contentious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood.”
Synopsis of McGovern’s Bio from Wikipedia
As background, here’s the synopsis on McGovern from Wikipedia:
George Stanley McGovern (July 19, 1922 – October 21, 2012) was an historian, author and U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, and the Democratic Party presidential nominee in the 1972 presidential election.
McGovern grew up in Mitchell, South Dakota, where he was a renowned debater. He volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Forces upon the country’s entry into World War II and as a B-24 Liberator pilot flew 35 missions over German-occupied Europe. Among the medals awarded him was a Distinguished Flying Cross for making a hazardous emergency landing of his damaged plane and saving his crew. After the war he gained degrees from Dakota Wesleyan University and Northwestern University, culminating in a Ph.D., and was a history professor. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1956 and re-elected in 1958. After a failed bid for the U.S. Senate in 1960, he was elected there in 1962.
As a senator, McGovern was an exemplar of modern American liberalism. He became most known for his outspoken opposition to the growing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He staged a brief nomination run in the 1968 presidential election as a stand-in for the assassinated Robert F. Kennedy. The subsequent McGovern–Fraser Commission fundamentally altered the Democratic presidential nominating process, by greatly increasing the number of caucuses and primaries and reducing the influence of party insiders. The McGovern–Hatfield Amendment sought to end the Vietnam War by legislative means but was defeated in 1970 and 1971. McGovern’s long-shot, grassroots-based 1972 presidential campaign found triumph in gaining the Democratic nomination but left the party badly split ideologically, and the failed vice-presidential pick of Thomas Eagleton undermined McGovern’s credibility. In the general election McGovern lost to incumbent Richard Nixon in one of the biggest landslides in American history. Re-elected Senator in 1968 and 1974, McGovern was defeated in a bid for a fourth term in 1980.
Throughout his career, McGovern was involved in issues related to agriculture, food, nutrition, and hunger. As the first director of the Food for Peace program in 1961, McGovern oversaw the distribution of U.S. surpluses to the needy abroad and was instrumental in the creation of the United Nations-based World Food Programme. As sole chair of the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs during 1968–1977, McGovern publicized the problem of hunger within the United States and issued the “McGovern Report” that led to a new set of nutritional guidelines for Americans. McGovern later served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture from 1998–2001 and was appointed the first UN Global Ambassador on World Hunger by the World Food Programme in 2001. The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program has provided school meals for millions of children in dozens of countries since 2000 and resulted in McGovern being named World Food Prize co‑laureate in 2008.