Comparing 2016 America to 1972 America Doesn't Work

Bernie Sanders' big win in New Hampshire has given his campaign a big boost, but even Bernie knows that there's still a long primary season ahead.

One of the biggest criticisms about Bernie Sanders, one that I hear frequently from pro-Clinton callers, is that Bernie Sanders could be the next George McGovern.

And it's a serious criticism that's being thrown at Bernie.

Because George McGovern ran as a progressive who wanted to end the Vietnam War and institute basic minimum incomes for the nation's poor, and he lost.

In fact, he lost in one of the biggest landslide losses in American presidential history.

He didn't even win in his home state of South Dakota, and the only electoral votes that he won were from Massachusetts and Washington, D.C..

But there's a few really good reasons to move past that criticism and to realize that if Bernie Sanders gets the nomination, he's not going to be the next George McGovern.

It's really, really, important to remember where the country was 44 years ago, back in 1972.

Nixon was an incumbent who had already been President, and Commander-In-Chief, for three years, and had been Vice President under the wildly popular Eisenhower for 8 years.

During those three years as President, foreign affairs became domestic affairs as young people, like me at the time, demonstrated in the streets to push back against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

McGovern built his platform on ending the war in Vietnam, and during his announcement speech he promised to withdraw every American solider from Southeast Asia and to improve economic conditions by reducing military spending.

The platform had a strong appeal to the young people like me, the people who had grown up with a government that was sending us off to a war in Vietnam to "stop the spread of communism", because we had strong feeling that we had been lied to, and that Nixon was continuing to lie to us.

McGovern had the support of young people, like Barack Obama did in 2008, and like Bernie Sanders seems to in 2016.

But he lost, in a landslide.

His platform simply didn't resonate with the older generation, the people in my dad's generation, the people "over 30" who us young people had learned not to trust.

The first problem was that Nixon made the Vietnam War a non-nothing issue for the older generation by pointing to the on-going process of "Vietnamization" that his administration was leading, and by promising that he would end the war in Vietnam and do it in a way that would bring "peace with honor".

That's the part of the story you'll read in history books, and it's the common narrative to explain why McGovern lost every state except for Massachusetts to Nixon.

But it's not the whole story.

The real question is, WHY didn't the people over thirty, those in my dad's generation, turn out to vote for McGovern?.

It's because my dad's generation, the people who voted for Nixon, didn't feel like they had been screwed by the government the way young people felt screwed, because my dad's generation had lived through a time of American prosperity in the 50s and 60s.

My dad was an Eisenhower Republican, and he was part of the American middle class during a time when the American middle class was doing better than any other time in American history.

By 1972, he had gone to college for free on the GI Bill, he had a house that was more than half paid-off, he had a full-time job at a union Tool & Die shop that paid well enough that he could buy a new car every two or three years, take a good vacation every year, and people in his generation knew that they could retire and live well in their old age.

College in California back then was pretty much absolutely free, and it was so cheap everywhere else that only people with graduate degrees even knew what student debt was.

It wasn't like that for absolutely everyone in America at the time, but the middle class was much larger, and it was doing much better, than it is today.

And so the older generation voted for Nixon, they voted to keep things on track, because they simply didn't feel as screwed over as we did in the younger generation.

The election of 1972 also had the lowest voter turnout that the country had seen in over two decades, indicating that a lot of people simply decided not to vote.

So Nixon won by a landslide.

Comparing Bernie Sanders to George McGovern assumes that the country is in a similar state now as it was 44 years ago, and that's just not true.

Economists agree, and it's a simple historic fact.

The rampant economic inequality in the American economy right now looks A LOT like it did in back 1928, at the peak of the "roaring 20s", and right before the Great Depression led voters to rally behind an unabashed progressive champion named Franklin Delano Roosevelt to reboot the American economy.

In 1972, on the other hand, America's top 1% earned a smaller percentage of the nation's income than during almost any other time in the 20th century.

But thanks 35 years of Reaganomics and "free trade", older people today are just as buried in debt and as frustrated as young people are, unlike in 1972.

And there isn't a Republican incumbent in the White House, unlike in 1972.

And beyond that, more people than ever are participating in our Democracy and voting, unlike in 1972.

Comparing 2016 America to 1972 America doesn't make a lot of sense, and neither does comparing Bernie Sanders to George McGovern.


scialli 8 years 18 weeks ago

Regarding 1972, in addition, Nixon had won his first election as the "peace" candidate and was in mid-"peace" talks. Still, assuming Trump's out, Senator Sanders needs to convince me that he is electable against the full force of the monied who will work to convince the country that if anyone has "New York values" (dog whisle for Jewish in this context) it is he. Just look at the other graduates of James Madison HS (Schumer, RBG, Coleman [doesn't really count], Carole King, etc).

paulagooding's picture
paulagooding 8 years 18 weeks ago

While I understand your concern of democrats uniting once the primary is over, I think you do no one any service to say Hillary is likely to be the nominee. My reaction each time I hear that is to become angry at the system and believe that there is no hope in changing anything. During the primary, I do not think you have to defend her as much as you do. While I think Hillary is better than any Republican running that is not a very high bar to reach. Hillary's incremental liberalism is nothing I believe in or trust. You cannot take the money she does from corporate america and have me believe she's in any position to represent me as an ordinary person. I know people can evolve their positions over time, but Hillary's changing her position as fast as she needs to stop the tide against her. That is someone I cannot support at this time. Please don't throw the race for anyone by saying one or the other is the likely candidate. You have been wrong about Bernie before - I do not think you are a great harbinger for what will happen.

Old_Curmudgeon 8 years 18 weeks ago

Of high High HIGH quality, was George McGovern. See this Wikipedia page about him: .

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 18 weeks ago

As of now, other than New England, Bernie has NO states in his pocket. Hillary has at least 27 and Super Tuesday is only a month away. New Hampshire is a tiny little nerdy state that only speaks for New Hampshire.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 18 weeks ago

In the '60s and early '70s we were a middle class society, we were very largely middle class and what poverty there was was largely race based, i.e., it was largely the result of racial discrimination - and, in addition, isolation of poor whites in Appalachia. Thus the justice movements of '60s and '70s were mainly about racial rather than class justice and a class consciousness and sense of class struggle was never developed in the United States like it was in other parts of the world.
Labor was strong, and corrupt, it had become part of the problem. The AFL-CIO was against affirmative action and supported the Viet Nam war effort. R.J. Daley had corrupt union officials on all his boards - including Chicago's Police Review Board, Nixon was endorsed by the Teamsters and sent Teamster thugs to beat up anti war demonstrators.
There wasn't the solidarity between labor and radical students like there was in other parts of the world like France, for example, where, in 1968, 10,000,000 workers walked off their jobs in a nation wide general strike in support of radical students in Paris.
Here in the United States the opposite happened, "hard hats" beat up the "hippies" and staged an "America, Love It or Leave It" march in downtown Manhattan in 1972.
Some Leftist analysis had it that the blue collar middle class in the U.S. was an example of a national working class being bought off and mollified. They were fat and happy and didn't care about issues of justice. They just wanted to drink their beer and watch their TV shows. The prototype of the American blue collar worker became Archie Bunker, not only not revolutionary but reactionary.
Then came the nationalization of the oil industries of Mid Eastern, oil producing countries in 1973 and our carefree economy, in which we only had to think about getting high and getting laid, came to an end. That was the final push to move manufacturing out of our cities, first to the suburbs and then to Mexico and later to Asia, and for the first time since the Great Depression we started having serious recessions.
Americans are still having trouble developing a class consciousness, however, instead they are clinging to racial politics only this time it's divisive rather than inclusive. They seem to be trying to find a cause and effect relationship between the racial inclusiveness espoused in the '60s and '70s and the recessions of the later '70s and business elites encourage them to do so with their right wing misinformation campaigns to divide the working classes.

cccccttttt 8 years 18 weeks ago

Bernie is clearly a long shot but he is having a major effect:

---focusing on how the middle class is being screwed by both parties

---stirring a passion among the younger voters for the FDR sense of equality

---may weaken Hillary enough to bring in Bloomberg, a much superior choice.

---and if Hillary does get the nomination, guessing many dems will choose Trump

as a relief from decades of her on TV.


-Richard's picture
-Richard 8 years 18 weeks ago

Yes, the middle and working classes are screwed, and people resent the power of big money. But decades of right-wing propaganda have convinced many Americans not to trust the government. Of course, government should serve the people, not the rich, and perhaps a progressive government can accomplish that. But only if that government is competent and well managed, and knows how to root out corruption.

For those who feel that socialism (or social democracy) is a easy answer, the experience of Brazil is instructive. There, a progressive government made great progress in overcoming inequality, but now is mired in outrageous financial scandals.

If we have a single payer health insurance system, someone will be making the decisions about who gets paid, and how much, and there will be a lot of money at stake.

Sander's lack of detail about how he will implement large government programs such as this, does not inspire confidence that he knows how to deal with such challenges.

His analysis of the problem is excellent. But he is short about how he will get there.

It's not enough to point to Europe. They are having their problems as well. And Americans think of themselves as different from Europeans. He will have to address the suspicions of government, the racist meme that government programs and taxes are taking from hard-working whites and giving to the "others."

So, even if he coulld diminish the power of the billionaires over politics, he still has to face the ideological indoctrination of the "Reagan Democrats" who distrust government.

The other theme lacking in his economic message is that a "social democrat" (better description than a "democratic socialist") is someone who favors a mixed economy. So, besides talking about a robust public sector, which we desperately need, he should be talking about lifting up small businesses, and working with innovative and responsible large businesses, because they are integral to the economic well being of the country. For example, the energy transformation of this country has to be accomplished with the partnership of many private endeavors working with the public sector. Those kinds of discussions would go a long way to dispelling the fear of the word "socialist," or the sense that his campaign is about promising lots of "free things" to people who don't want to work.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 18 weeks ago

Hillary Clinton can't beat the Teapublicans, the Fascist propaganda machine will certainly destroy her. Bernie is our only hope simply because he's not perceived as part of the business as usual political establishment. He's not owned by the monied elite, and many voters regardless of affiliation are aware of this. I have several foxmerized friends who tell me they would vote for Sanders just for that very reason, they consider him non- establishment, and willing to stand up against the banksters.

Does anyone actually believe Trump is anti free trade, and anti Citizens United??? Give me a break, he'll say anything to win, he's not going against his own kind once in office..for god sakes! Don't let yourself become Trumpmerized!

dr818dr's picture
dr818dr 8 years 18 weeks ago

One thing you left out. McGovern was right (correct) on every issue.

Willie W's picture
Willie W 8 years 18 weeks ago

Just a wild guess here. I'm thinking the nominees are going to be Hillary and Jeb.

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 8 years 18 weeks ago

Neoliberalism per Wikipedia: A belief that, since the 1980s, has favored privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in this economy. Neoliberalism is famously associated with the economic policies introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom and Ronald Reagan in the U.S.

An economic strategy that is favored by a group of individuals who took full control of the DNC back in the mid eighties and remain in power today. A group that launched the Clinton's onto the national political stage to do their bidding during that same period.

A major change to the Democrat Party leadership a quarter of a century ago that has continuously ignored Progressive Democrats as it increasingly supported Right Wing economic issues like Free Trade, through the passage of NAFTA, and Deregulation through the elimination of Glass-Steagall. Yet most voters who support the Democrat party refuse to abandon their belief that this party is still working to improve the conditions of life in this country. These people are akin to the passengers on the Titanic that remained hopeful as their world came to an end ! Sander's is attempting to resurrect the principles and ideals of his party and restore the confidence of it's many supporters. A difficult task when the degree of private wealth is the only measure of excellence by those in power !

richinfolsom 8 years 18 weeks ago

The last debate was revealing about each candidate - either one would a far better choice than the socio-political devastation the country would face under a Republican committed to tear down the fabric of Social justice since the dark ages before the Great Depression. Do away with affordable healthcare and die. Do away with environmental protections (EPA) and die. Do away with economic justice and compete with foreign working conditions and pay.

the political pundits (such as Mathews) have yet to appreciate the scope of potential political activism that found Bernie as their spokes person. Hillary has yet to understand that Bernie showed up on the scene because of the 300,000 people who have come out to listen to a 74 years old man seeking to find solutions for the middle class.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 18 weeks ago

RL Townsley, two things, first, the Democratic Party is not Bernie's party but for now, he is an Independant otherwise and second, DLC leaders run as progressives and then, when elected, govern as - moderate, perhaps - Republicans.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 18 weeks ago

Mark well said in #5. Nailed it. Everyone has to understand back then America was pretty much a closed economy. It was very expensive to ship things in the 50s and 60s. Money made in America stayed in America. Then came the super tankers and the world became one economy. Those days are long gone. Trump is right the only way to fix it is a import tax or tariff. Do we really want to become Europe. Living in a 600 sq/ft apartment with 8 weeks holidays and no money to go anywhere, or buy anything. What makes America great is the fact you have more disposable income then any other country in the world. America buys 50% of the worlds products and invents almost all the new ones. Obama has put you 9 trillion in the hole with nothing to show for it. No bridges, roads, hospitals. Nothing. All Bernie with give you is more trillions in debt. Be careful what you wish for it might come true.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 18 weeks ago

Kend why do you call those new 10 million jobs nothing?

Do you not know about the Caucus Room Restaurant meeting on Jan 19, 2009?

We would have a far better economy, if Obama had more than those 74 days to ignore the Republicans who were set on destroying our economy, so they could seize power of the government for their billionaire donors.

Do you know about ROAE (return on assets employed)? When you say $9 trillion that is assets employed. How about the return? The GDP at $16 trillion a year means the return is $112 trillion.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 18 weeks ago

Chuck with all the job loses before Obama anyone it wouldn't take much to come up with 10 million jobs. 9 trillion is a lot of money. About $25,000 per American he spent in 7 years. Poor Value.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 18 weeks ago

Hang on that can't be right. That would be $100,000 per family of four in his term. Math boy is that right? I hope not.

ulTRAX's picture
ulTRAX 8 years 17 weeks ago

When Reagan was running in 1980 the GOP didn't oppose him saying REMEMBER THE GOLDWATER DISASTER!!! Yet corporate Dems believe the nation hasn't changed since 1972... or can't be inspired to go in a different direction. This view creates a self-fulfilling prophecy dooming the Dems to forever abandon common sense liberalism and we've seen the results. The evidence for the neolib disaster of the past 35 years alone isn't enough to self-correct. We have a defective electoral and political system with two braindead parties and a corporate media. If there is no one to give voice to the argument that the GOP and corporate Dems have betrayed workers and the middle class... then the opposition will forever be fragmented and the nation will continue down the neolib path to disaster.

ulTRAX's picture
ulTRAX 8 years 17 weeks ago

kend wrote "Do we really want to become Europe. Living in a 600 sq/ft apartment with 8 weeks holidays and no money to go anywhere, or buy anything. What makes America great is the fact you have more disposable income then any other country in the world."

Europe is hardly one nation. Just which nations have no money to go anywhere? Bulgaria? Certainly not the Scandinavian nations which seem to have a higher GDP per capita than the US. But even this measure is meaningless if the national income/wealth distribution is so skewed to the top. I posted elsewhere Census numbers that the in terms of aggregate income the bottom quintile in the US has lost 28% since 1974 and the top 1% has gained 32%.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 17 weeks ago

Kend -- When you consider the unregulated shadow banking center has grown by $62 trillion since 2007 (Time Feb 29, 2016), the $9 trillion over 7 years for the wealthiest nation in the world seems very small. Remember small deficits always leads to the crashing of the DOW.

Another way to say what ulTRAX says, do you mean that the billionaire class has a lot of disposable income is a desirable goal? I really want to live in country where the bottom 50% have a lot of disposable income.

ulTRAX's picture
ulTRAX 8 years 17 weeks ago

Chuckle8 wrote: " Remember small deficits always leads to the crashing of the DOW."

Not following. The deficit not only shrunk during the Clinton years... but for 2 years we ran a true on-budget surplus... not a phony unified surplus where we were still borrowing money from Social Security. The Dow was doing great at the end of the 90's. You may recall Goldspan called it irrational exuberance.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 17 weeks ago

The banks are growing chuck because everyone wants everything right now. In the 50s to 70s people saved up to buy stuff. You didn't finance the shit out of yourself. That is how the wealthy get richer. Don't borrow their money. Don't buy their useless crap. Do you really need the next iPhone. Really.. Quit blaming the rich, it's us that make them rich. If you really believe Bernie by taxing the rich everything will get better your crazy. They don't have enough.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 8 years 17 weeks ago

Kend : No disrespect!

Banks grow richer becuase we allow them to create money by the means of 'fractional reserve' banking.

This allows them to take your money and loan it to someone else without your consent

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 8 years 17 weeks ago

Kend : Banks are privately owned such as the Federal Reserve Bank of America

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 8 years 17 weeks ago

Kend : Kindly bear in mind that it is said 1% of the worlds population owns nearly half of Global wealth

ulTRAX's picture
ulTRAX 8 years 17 weeks ago

Kend made this amusing remark: "The banks are growing chuck because everyone wants everything right now. In the 50s to 70s people saved up to buy stuff. You didn't finance the shit out of yourself. That is how the wealthy get richer. Don't borrow their money. Don't buy their useless crap. Do you really need the next iPhone. Really.. Quit blaming the rich, it's us that make them rich. If you really believe Bernie by taxing the rich everything will get better your crazy. They don't have enough."

So you're saying people using credit is what is dragging down working and middle class Americans? OK, sure we don't save enough... though back in the 50-60-70's I don't remember the FED driving interest rates to near zero for 8 years. It paid to save back then.

I think what you're missing is who gets what share of the national income... and how that's shifted. I posted elsewhere some Census numbers of aggregate income by quintile. Since 1974 the bottom quintile has lost 28% while the top 5% has gained 32%.

You can pretend easy credit is the reason for the rich getting richer... but the national income numbers prove you're wrong. Easy credit and irresponsible tax cuts have concealed the income problem and made it tolerable. It's not the cause of the problem.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 8 years 17 weeks ago

ulTRAX : Sorry! The problem is much more deep seated

ulTRAX's picture
ulTRAX 8 years 17 weeks ago

Hephaestus wrote "ulTRAX : Sorry! The problem is much more deep seated"

Color me lost. Which problem? More deep seated than what?

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 8 years 17 weeks ago

kindly read 23 thru 25 above to get a notion

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