El caos. Un populista de izquierdas dispuesto a convertir temas marginales en piedra angular de su campaña, y un cacique sureño que alzaba con orgullo la bandera de la segregación racial, compitiendo ambos por ser el candidato presidencial oficial del mismo partido. Un Presidente republicano con buenas perspectivas de reelección, que temía demasiado al segundo y deseaba con locura enfrentarse al primero, al que llamaba despectivamente "poeta homosexual" (aclaro que McGovern no era gay).
La tercera vía entre los dos extremos parecía ser el Senador Ed Muskie, un legislador serio y pragmático que contó desde un principio con la ventaja de tener el aparato del partido promoviendo su postulación. Pero la liberalización del proceso, sumado al poder de movilización de nuevas organizaciones de activistas fundadas sobre la base del rechazo a la Guerra de Vietnam, y un tiroteo que, una vez más, frustró las aspiraciones de un candidato, resultaron en la nominación de George McGovern. Popularmente conocido como el candidato de la "Triple A": Ácido, Aborto y Amnistía. Naturalmente, viendo el panorama, Nixon fue reelegido con el voto de muchos demócratas tradicionales.
Los candidatos más importantes a la nominación presidencial del Partido Demócrata en 1972 fueron: la Congresista Shirley Chisholm, de Nueva York; el Senador Fred Harris, de Oklahoma; el ex Vicepresidente Hubert Humphrey; el Senador Henry Jackson, de Washington; el Alcalde John Lindsay, de Nueva York; el ex Senador Eugene McCarthy, de Minnesota; el Senador George McGovern; de Dakota del Sur; el Congresista Wilbur Mills, de Arkansas; el Senador Ed Muskie, de Maine; el Gobernador George Wallace, de Alabama; el Alcalde Sam Yorty, de Los Angeles; y el ex Gobernador Terry Sanford, de Carolina del Norte.
Fuentes: Wikipedia, Union Leader y Time.
(...) Senate Majority Whip Ted Kennedy (D - Massachusetts) had been the favorite to win the 1972 nomination, but his hopes were derailed by his role in the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident. He was not a candidate.
The establishment favorite for the Democratic nomination was Senator Ed Muskie (D - Maine), the moderate who acquitted himself well as the 1968 Democratic vice presidential candidate. Although Muskie won the Iowa caucuses, left-wing dark horse candidate, South Dakota Senator George McGovern, made a strong showing in the caucuses, giving his campaign national attention. McGovern's campaign left Iowa with momentum. Muskie himself had never participated in a primary election campaign before, and it is possible that this led to the downfall of his campaign.
Maine Senator Edmund Muskie had expectations that the New Hampshire state primary would provide the some lift-off it had given another Catholic and Democratic Now England senator a dozen years before John Kennedy. Senator Muskie had visited the state often. When Senator McIntyre, the sole Democrat holding major office, announced his support of Muskie in December of 1971 he listed the years that Muskie had taken the time to assist New Hampshire's Democrats.
Senator McGovern was accorded little chance of scoring a breakthrough. Yet before the votes were tabulated, he had out-organized and out-worked Muskie, resulting in a stronger-than-expected performance at the polls. McGovern was as superior to Muskie on the hustings, as Rockefeller had been to Goldwater. He seemed to relish the ordeal of pressing the flesh (he would devote 24 days to the first primary, Muskie only 13).
Just as with Eugene McCarthy, an elaborate organizational structure was pieced together by McGovern's liberal loyalists to identify potential and real support, to attract the undecided citizens and make sure the South Dakotan's voters turned out on March 7 primary.
The campaign went badly for Muskie, who was repeatedly hit with editorial blasts from the Union Leader. As he slipped in the polls, an attempt was made to regain the initiative. To the dismay of his local advisors, his campaign leadership decided to hold a rally in front of the Union Leader on the morning of Saturday, February 26. Muskie, who was upset about the newspaper's reprinting of a Newsweek account that placed his wife in an unfavorable light, planned to respond to some of the attacks of the newspaper. Muskie brought his campaign, and its entourage of local and national reporters, to downtown Manchester that fateful day. He spoke from the back of a flatbed truck during a snowstorm.
En la imagen: el Senador Ed Muskie respondiendo a los ataques del Union Leader.
David Broder wrote the following for The Washington Post: "With tears streaming down his face and his voice choked with emotion, Senator Edmund S. Muskie (D-Maine) stood in the snow outside the Manchester Union Leader this morning and accused its publisher of making vicious attacks on him and his wife, Jane...In defending his wife, Muskie broke down three times in as many minutes — uttering a few words and then standing silent in the near blizzard, rubbing at his face, his shoulders heaving, while he attempted to regain his composure sufficiently to speak."
Though Muskie later stated that what had appeared to the press as tears were actually melted snowflakes, the press reports that Muskie broke down and cried were to shatter the candidate's image as calm and reasoned. Muskie won the New Hampshire primary with 41,235 votes to McGovern's 33,007. But since it was only 46.4 percent of the total and McGovern's was 37.1 percent, it was a shallow win for the front runner. McGovern came in a surprisingly-close second. McGovern now had the momentum, which was well orchestrated by his campaign team.
Southern conservative/racist Alabama Governor George Wallace, with his "outsider" image, did well in the South and among alienated and dissatisfied voters. He won every single county in the Florida primary. Wallace also won primaries in Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee, and North Carolina, and he was neck-and-neck with McGovern for total votes in the primaries. While campaigning in Laurel, Maryland, on May 15, 1972, Governor Wallace was shot five times by a would-be assassin named Arthur Bremer. The assassination attempt left Wallace paralyzed, as one of the bullets had lodged in his spinal column. The shooting incident was effectively the end of his campaign.
En la imagen: El Gobernador George Wallace en el suelo tras ser tiroteado en Maryland.
That left former Vice President Hubert Humphrey as the main challenger for Senator McGovern. In the end, McGovern succeeded in winning the nomination by winning primaries through grass-roots support in spite of establishment opposition. The activist, fervently anti-war supporters of McGovern managed to add up enough delegates in a combination of primary and caucus states to give him the nomination.
The 1972 National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party was held at Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami Beach, Florida from July 10 to July 13, 1972. The convention itself was one of the most bizarre in recent American history, with sessions beginning in the early evening and lasting until sunrise the next morning, and previously-excluded political activists gaining influence at the expense of elected officials and traditional core Democratic constituencies such as organized labor, thus resulting in a convention far to the left of a good part of the rank-and-file of the Democratic Party.
The 1972 convention was significant in that the new rules put into place as a result of a commission (which McGovern himself had chaired) opened the door for quotas mandating that certain percentages of delegates be women or members of minority groups, and subjects that were previously deemed not fit for political debate, such as abortion and gay rights, now occupied the forefront of political discussion.
The new rules for choosing and seating delegates created an unusual number of rules and credentials challenges. Many traditional Democratic groups such as organized labor and big city political machines had small representation at the convention. Their supporters challenged the seating of relative political novices, but for the most part were turned back by the supporters of South Dakota senator George McGovern.
McGovern had amassed the most delegates to the convention by using a grass roots campaign that was powered by opposition to the Vietnam War. Many traditional Democratic leaders and politicians felt that McGovern's delegate count did not reflect the wishes of most Democratic voters. Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter helped to spearhead a "Stop McGovern" campaign. The stop-McGovern forces tried unsuccessfully to alter the delegate composition of the California delegation. California had a "winner-take-all" primary format, so even though McGovern only won the California primary by a slim 1% electoral margin, he won all 273 of their delegates to the convention.
The anti-McGovern group argued for a more proportional distribution of the delegates, while the McGovern forces stressed that the rules for the delegate selection had been set and the Stop McGovern alliance was trying to change the rules after the game. As with the credential fight, McGovern's army carried the day effectively handing the nomination to Senator McGovern.
Most polls showed McGovern running well behind President Richard M. Nixon, the incumbent, except when he was paired with Massachusetts senator Edward M. Kennedy. McGovern and his campaign brain trust lobbied Senator Kennedy heavily to accept the bid to be McGovern's running mate, but he continually refused their advances. McGovern and his campaign staff felt that they needed someone like Kennedy to balance out the ticket; a Catholic, big city based leader with strong ties to organized labor and big city political machines.
After flirting with the idea of choosing Boston mayor Kevin White, they offered the Vice-Presidential slot to Senator Thomas Eagleton of Missouri. Eagleton was relatively unknown to many of the delegates, and that fact, along with the inexperience of many of the delegates who were wary after the protracted infighting, caused the Vice-Presidential balloting to become almost a farce. With hundreds of delegates either actively supporting Nixon or angry at McGovern for one reason or another, the vote was chaotic, with at least three other candidates having their names put into nomination and votes scattered over 70 candidates, including Mao Tse-Tung and TV anchor Roger Mudd.
En la imagen: George McGovern y Thomas Eagleton.
Eventually, Eagleton secured the nomination but the last-day-of-school atmosphere of the proceedings dragged out the process. The vice presidential balloting went on so long that McGovern and Eagleton were forced to make their acceptance speeches at around three in the morning, local time, out of prime time television hours and probably hurt the McGovern campaign by not creating the so-called "convention bounce."
Several days after the convention, it was revealed that Senator Eagleton had been hospitalized for depression and had electric shock treatment. He was also rumored to be more than a social drinker. McGovern stood behind his choice and stated that he was behind Senator Eagleton "1000 percent". The news media and many political pros, especially in the Democratic Party, lobbied hard for his removal from the ticket.
Eventually McGovern felt compelled to accept Senator Eagleton's resignation from the ticket. The episode had placed McGovern in a "no-win" situation. If he kept Eagleton, the selection did not look good for the decision-making ability of the McGovern team, while if he removed Eagleton, he appeared to be weak and vacillating. Since this incident, front-running presidential candidates have developed short lists of potential running mates and have meticulously performed background checks.
McGovern chose Sargent Shriver as his running mate a few weeks later. The McGovern-Shriver ticket went on to one of the greatest landslide defeats in American political history. (...)
En la imagen: mapa de los resultados de las primarias demócratas de 1972.