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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Lessons of 1972

Category: 2016
Posted: 11/02/17 23:04

by Dave Mindeman

I have been involved in politics since the George McGovern campaign. You remember that don't you? The anti-war candidate. The liberal's liberal. The victim of the Nixon subterfuge. I loved McGovern. He spoke real truth to power. He believed in liberal ideals. He would fight for the poor and downtrodden. He believed that Vietnam was a massive mistake.

He took the Democratic Party by storm and carried so many young people with him to.....

ignominious defeat.

The worst political thrashing I ever saw. Lost nearly every state. Lost the popular vote 37-61. It left me stunned. Disillusioned. Hopeless.

It was not so much that my candidate lost, but the ideas that I thought were obviously the "right" ideas got thrashed as well. The country obviously did not believe in the same liberal ideas that I did. I was crushed.

But I kept going. I learned something valuable. That ideals and election politics are different things. The mandate to make policy goes to the winners -not the ones with the best ideas.

After that election, being liberal became a joke for many years. Pie in the sky liberals. Idealistic neophytes. No connection to reality. Yeah, I heard them all.

Since that time, I have worked ceaselessly on working for political change. It has happened from time to time, but never with any sense of completeness. I have learned that you have to accept setbacks. You have to accept politics as it is, not as you want it to be.

Democrats have often been ill equipped for the fight and often fight each other more than the real political enemy.

The Bernie supporters remind me of that time in 1972. You want to find some excuse for why things did not work. It was all so unfair. The system is biased against us. We need to change everything. It is all bad.

In 1972, I learned that it wasn't the system that had to change, because there are too many negative forces holding it in place....rather it was I who had to change. To stop hiding behind my sense of right and wrong and understand that politics is really nothing about right and wrong - rather it is a method of obtaining power - of simply winning with whatever it takes.

It is a game with no rules. It is unfortunate, but true.

And the only absolute necessity is for a Party to stand together against the other side. If we had a European parliamentary system, there would be more room for party nuance. To form real coalitions with votes and power. But we do not have that. This is a two party democracy with all the flaws and foibles that go along with that narrow definition.

Which is why the here and now is so important. Our democracy is at serious risk. We have a President who understands completely how things work with no rules. How to get the advantage at every turn. To manipulate people and power.

And, once again, we continue to believe that right will still win out. That justice will always prevail. And that Camelot still exists.

Learn the lessons of 1972. As Vince Lombardi put it so well -

"Winning isn't everything; it's the ONLY thing."
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