Saturday, 10 November 2012

The McGovern Majority

Forty years on, and so very soon after the death of the man himself, has the McGovern Coalition become America's electoral majority? Yes, it has. But only if we are clear as to what that Coalition was and is.

To the United States Senate have just been elected or re-elected the Democrats Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana (in many ways the story of the night), Tim Kaine of Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Jon Tester of Montana. Donnelly captured a state which turned from Democratic to Republican in the Presidential Election. Post-1968 liberals from central casting, these are not.

But then, neither was George McGovern. For example, his own doubts about abortion would have precluded his nomination for President in the last 20 years, although the 1976 Democratic nominee, Jimmy Carter, was even less keen on the practice and once elected signed into law the ban on federal funding of it. Both of McGovern's running mates were pro-life Catholics. There has not been an entirely pro-life ticket of either party since that of the Democrats in 1968, and since then several Republican tickets have been entirely pro-abortion, with every single one headed by someone who was at least effectively so. For all his faults, the Democrat whose assassination prevented his nomination and election in 1968 was a totally pro-life Catholic, with 11 children to prove it.

The Republican Senators who have just held on against socially conservative Democrats from the economically populist Left were two of the Tea Party's top targets, Orrin Hatch against Scott Howell in Utah, and Bob Corker against the spitefully reviled Mark Clayton in Tennessee. The organisational backbone of the black vote remains the black church, which is not easily mistaken for the liberal wing of the Church of England or of the old "mainline" denominations in the United States.

Obama again carried the Catholic vote, albeit by a smaller margin than in 2008, but with that drop accounted for entirely by the white males who were in any case Romney's only constituency. For the second time, Catholics looked at two pro-abortion candidates and picked the one with whom they agreed on the issues where any choice was permitted. This time, they also chose the one who did not in fact derive an income from the performance of abortion.

Yes, since 1972 the Democratic Party has come to predominate among Hispanics and Asians. Yes, as in 1972, the Democratic Party massively predominates among blacks and Jews, although what that former actually entails does need to be kept in mind. And yes, since 1972 the Democrats have become the only party of urban, suburban and coastal liberals. But at least as much as by as late as 1972, Democrats also still account for a large and a potentially powerful bloc of Southern whites, Western whites, rural whites, white Evangelicals, white Catholics and white Mormons, with that bloc correspondingly comprising a large and a potentially powerful bloc within the Democratic Party, far larger than Asians and Jews combined.

In the political pursuit of their Southern, Western and rural interests, and of their Evangelical, Catholic and Mormon beliefs, they have consciously chosen a broad-based, inclusive, economically populist, internationally peace-seeking, truly national party. Without them, that party cannot remain truly national. Without them, it could not have retained the Presidency, nor could it have retained control of the Senate, and that with an increased number of seats.

What is the party doing to make and keep itself the broad-based, inclusive, economically populist, internationally peace-seeking voice and vehicle for Southern, Western and rural interests, and for Evangelical, Catholic and Mormon beliefs, among a whole host of others? What are the Southern, Western, rural, Evangelical, Catholic and Mormon Democrats doing to ensure that their party remains that voice and that vehicle, the party that McGovern would have led as President? If Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, Ted Kennedy or Joe Biden were starting out or starting to get on these days, then would he still need to depart from the views of Thomas Eagleton and of Kennedy's brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver?


  1. No wonder your last book included a commendation from Mark Stricherz.

  2. And my next one will include a review of his Why The Democrats Are Blue. Not that they have much to be blue about now.