Dean's detractors most often compare him to the 1972 Democratic nominee, George McGovern, who was routed by Richard Nixon in the general election. The comparison is apt in more ways than one. McGovern was the first Democrat to capture the imagination of the students who would become professionals and lead the social and cultural revolution of the past 30 years. He pioneered direct-mail fundraising. And many of the Democrats' most innovative politicians and political consultants, including Gary Hart, Pat Caddell, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, got their start in the McGovern campaign. Dean enjoys this part of McGovern's legacy. But he also, sadly, may suffer from the other side of McGovern's legacy. Just as the country was not ready for McGovern in 1972, so it is probably not ready for Howard Dean in 2004.
Dear readers...what people keep forgetting in Nixon's landslide over McGovern in '72 was what a fallen rock zone McGovern's campaign was. I was there. I was a student activist for McGovern. And even I lost faith as that November loomed.
So for any pundit/columnist/genius who has forgotten, PAY ATTENTION:
In the middle of the campaign, it was revealed that McGovern's running mate Tom Eagleton was treated for nervous exhaustion three times in the 60s - and twice went for electroshock therapy for depression. McGovern's pledge to stand behind Eagleton "1000%" - just before he replaced him with R. Sargent Shriver - was a political disaster. And Shriver's vast (and only) political experience as head of the Peace Corps wasn't what we in advertising call "added value" in a presidential team.
If Dean has half a brain (which gives him the edge if he's the Dem's choice), he won't repeat McGovern's ineptness. Let's drop the comparisons once and for all. Okay, Salon? Okay, DLC? Okay, DNC?