A CREEP Born Every Minute


Hugh Hewitt writes:

the election of 2004 is shaping up as the clearest choice since 1972

The implication being, Richard Nixon was clearly the best choice 31 years ago. This strikes me as peculiar, mostly given Nixon's criminal abuses of presidential power, but also his many horrendous policies (price controls, to name one). But then, I was four years old at the time, so maybe I just can't grok the McGovern Menace. That's why I asked the non-Democrat readers of my personal Web site last year who they'd vote for in the '72 election, given everything we know now. To my lasting shock, Nixon trounced McGovern, 12 to 2, in the incredibly unscientific poll. I would be curious to hear reactions to any of this from Hit & Run readers.

NEXT: Edwards of Arabia?

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  1. Voting for Nixon was never an option for me fyodor, although in hindsight he’s looking good compared to the group we have in there now!

  2. In 1972 I voted for Hospers and Toni Nathan because, as my bumper sticker on my beater ’59 Shivolay haf ton proclaimed: ‘the lesser of two evils is still evil’.

    If I had it to do all over again? Same. Same.


  3. Meeting Toni Nathan (libertarian candidate for VP) on the U of Washington campus and finding out about the Libertarian Party saved me from a lifetime of guilt I would have felt if I had cast my first ever presidential ballot for Nixon in 1972.

    I have voted Libertarian ever since. My sincere and profound gratitude goes to John Hospers and Ms. Nathan.

    Here’s hoping that the LP has a breakout year in 2004.

  4. Apologies to Cathy, I misread your post.

    So that means up to my last post ZERO people thought they would be swayed to change their vote to McGovern based on what we later found out about how stinky Nixon truely was (of course, did anyone really doubt that when they went to the polls in ’72?). Since that post, however, Steve in CO gives Nixon’s attitude about his relation to the law (I believe Dicky later said, “If the president does it, then it is legal!”) as one of two reasons to go McGovern, so I suppose that’s a half vote for the type of change of heart I think Matt is looking for.

    To follow up on my parenthetical point, I really don’t remember many people in 1972 doubting that Nixon was corrupt, but I do remember a lot of the rationalization (not without some merit, perhaps) that “they all do it.”

  5. I was a McG booster, course I was in third grade at the time. I figured Nixon had his time and it was time to let someone else be president. Everyone I knew was a Nixon supporter, (Chicago suburbs). As far as I could see, the only reason people liked him better is because he was the president. Well I was only eight so what did I know.

    It’s hard for people to see how silly the McGovern candidacy was, ever since Dukakis.

  6. Nixon’s The One.

  7. How about the clearest choice since 1984? Or 1988? Or 1996?

  8. Hmmmm…

    The one who won a medal for valor for flying a damaged bomber in a combat mission over Germany…

    Or the one who brought Gordon Liddy and Charles Colson into the White House?

    Ringleader of Watergate…Early opposition to the Vietnam War…

    Wow, that’s a toughie…

  9. In just about every election there’s a candidate you can hold your nose and vote for, but I have to say that in 1972 I may well have written in “no confidence”. Ugh, what a choice. It might have been worth a vote for McGovern just to see what would have happened when it came time to make good on his “guaranteed minimum income” promise, but for that consarned short-term memory problem which afflicts all politicians after they’re sworn in.

  10. 1972 was the first year I could vote. I was planning to vote for McGovern because he opposed the Vietnam War and the draft. I urged my right-wing friends to vote for McGovern, and they all suggested I vote for John Schmitz.
    By election day, McGovern had so little chance that I wrote in John Hospers on my California Ballot.
    FYI – Hospers was on the ballot in Colorado and Washington State, and received 980 write-in votes in California, 43 write-ins in Massachusetts.
    Also FYI – John Schmitz was Congressman from Orange County, and was defeated in the Republican primary by a Nixon henchman who was the Tax Assessor for OC. Schmitz was in the John Birch Society, but by the late 1980s he had been purged for associating with Liberty Lobby and Yasser Arafat.

  11. Are we talking 100% hindsight? Because a McGovern presidency in 1973 would have ensured a Reagan presidency in 1977, and Democrats would never have gained their “class of 1974” majority after Watergate, so the House and Senate might have been swept in with him. We might have had a Republican revolution 18 years earlier. Tip O’Neill would have taken early retirement and set up a real estate company.

    If I make the rules, I’m voting for McGovern.

  12. Vote for Nixon? W.T.F.? Why, because McGovern wouldn’t have shown the same resolve in secretly bombing Cambodia and overthrowing Allende? No, sir, you time-travelers certainly don’t want to run the risk of erasing Kissinger out of history.

  13. Using my time machine, I have gone back in time, established a vast network of high-level personal contacts, swayed the 72 election from Nixon to McGovern (no small feat), then lived through the following McGovern dynasty (see below), and returned to this timeline to report on the results.

    After narrowly winning the election, McGovern shrewdly consolidated power using well-timed (and some say intentional) economic crises. This led to price and wage controls, rationing, nationalization of the country’s food distribution systems, and, finally, the confiscation of “surplus grain” from traditionally-Republican congressional districts.

    After the brutal civil war (75-77), McGovern emerged with an even stronger resolve, but was now more paranoid than ever regarding his advisors. He had his entire cabinet “dispositioned to the Alaskan settlement projects” in 78 and then again in the spring of 79.

    In the fall of 79, he declared himself president for life and remained in power until 2006, when he was assassinated by his nephew in a bloody power struggle. During that time, billions of dollars were siphoned from the federal budget into McGovern’s own personal accounts, the US economy imploded, inflation reached a trillion percent, and the federal government, unable to raise money through taxation or coining more money, raised funds by selling its own citizens into slavery (mostly to the French).

    In hindsight, the Nixon presidency was a little better.

  14. Easily McGovern. As I recall, the “guaranteed minimum income” proposal was to replace welfare. Furthermore, his opposition branded him the “triple A” candidate (“Amnesty, Abortion and Acid”) to characaturize is somewhat libertarian views on some issues: He favored ending the draft and amnesty for draft resisters, de-criminalization of marijuana, and legalization of abortion (this was pre-Roe v. Wade).
    Nixon, on the other hand, favored increased federal interference in local law enforcement, and introduced under the banner “The New Federalism” something we are still stuck with today” revenue sharing. The latter means that the federal government taxes us for more money than even it wants for its bloated budget and appetite, then gives the excess to the states for spending that the state politicians could not raise through taxation and expect to get re-elected.

  15. Didn’t John Hospers run on the Libertarian ticket in 1972?

  16. McGovern of course. And I campaigned for him in heavily Republican Morris County NJ.

  17. McGovern for sure. Nixon was the worst u.s. president ever, a vile liar and crook. A big chance was missed
    for the states, as far as i see it from my central european point of view.

  18. Hmmm, this is a tough one…

    I just don’t know…

    Let me get back to you…


  19. Dave Weigel’s scenario is intriguing. Assuming that things would have worked out that way, I too would have to go with McG.

    However, I clearly remember McG. or someone high-up in his campaign staff flatly stating that no one in America should be allowed to earn (or maybe it was keep after taxes) more than $50,000 per year. Granted 50K was a lot more money before we were treated to the Ford/Carter hyperinflation, but from a libertarian point of view, that’s just scary.

  20. Nixon of course. Despite all the things I dislike about Nixon, McGovern was ans still is a joke.

  21. I was too young to vote in that one but:

    1. Nixon purposefully won the hearts and minds of Wallace supporters which was part of his victory……

    2. The War in Vietnam was still patriotic.

    1+2 = “(hindsight) vote McGovern”

    Though I havta admit that while Nixon had some serious personal flaws and also advocated some stupid policies, his overall record as president is still pretty good (shame about that whole Watergate thing). I can’t say what McGovern would have been like in the end.

  22. Yes, John Hospers was the Libertarian candidate for president in 1972, the first year in which the LP ran a candidate. However, I think the premise of the question was that you would vote for one or the other of the major party candidates. Thus, given that premise, I would vote for McGovern, the choices presented by the question not including any of the other actual candidates: Hospers, John Schmidt (political heir to George Wallace, and father of Mary Kay LeTourneau), Dick Gregory or Benjamin Spock.

  23. As I recall, when you posted this question on your personal blog — including the provisos that we were required to cast a ballot and that third-party candidates were off-limits — I opted for McGovern, as a protest vote against the Vietnam War.

    (The only two major-party nominees in the last four decades that I can picture myself voting for are McGovern and Goldwater. I must have an attraction to lost causes.)

    Incidentally, Nixon also backed a guaranteed income. In its original form, it was based on Milton Friedman’s negative income tax and was supposed to be a replacement for welfare. By the time it came up for a vote, it was a new entitlement in addition to welfare, and Friedman ended up testifying against his own proposal.

  24. Peter: Dick Gregory ran in ’68, not ’72. Somewhere I’ve got a copy of his campaign book.

    Schmidt got over a million votes, but no one remembers him.

  25. I remember Schmidt. He had a funny moustache & hated the U.N. From Pennsylvania, as I recall.

    The choice between Nixon & McGovern was like having a choice to fall in shit or be pushed into shit. Sometimes you have to just hope you can hold your breath for 4 more years & maybe you’ll have a better choice then.

    I still think the Democrats haven’t really recovered from the McGovern candidacy, inasmuch as they’re still perceived by most voters as the weaker party on foreign policy. From what I’ve seen of the current Gang of Ten, they aren’t going to be changing that perception any time soon.

  26. One has to account for the following drivers of Nixon’s victory:

    1) Garth, the war was not still “Patriotic.” But Nixon crafted an intelligent “peace with honor” message that was more attractive than Gene’s “I’ll have everyone out in 3 months” cut and run promise.

    2) The Democrats in general were pretty wacky that year…(Then front runner) Muskie crying in front of the media in the snow before the NH primary…The Miami Beach convention, after McGovern’s “wing” took it over, was in general Jonathan Kozol’s ideological wet dream.

  27. John Hospers, the USC philosophy prof. and author of the strong volume; “Libertarianism”, was on the ballot only in Cal. and Colorado; (the state where the LP was founded!)

    The Nixon presidency, with it’s big government agenda (wage and price controls, creation of the EPA,etc.etc.etc.) and the Watergate scandal, bred a profound distrust of government and thus was very helpful to the libertarian/conservative movement.

    I wouldn’t change history on this episode.

  28. I believe Hewitt, by “clearest choice”, merely meant that the major party candidates have not been so separated on major issues of the day since 1972, that voters have the “clearest choice” to make between the candidates – not necessarily implying that Nixon was the better candidate in 1972, just that the differences between the candidates were quite stark.

  29. Yeah, he’s right. Lighten up, Matt.

  30. It’s a bit difficult to understand, in hindsight, that McGovern’s calls for expansion of government and taxation were leftist for back then. Today, calls for draining money off “the rich” (i.e., anyone who’s getting more than minimum wage) are routine.

    I’ve given up on the notion that voting does any good, and Nixon’s price control decrees afterwards showed he was just as bad. But if I somehow had to choose between them, I’d choose Nixon, simply because he made more enemies and thus was more stoppable.

  31. Obviously, Matt, “good Germans” abound, even amongst libertarians….

  32. Interestingly, no one has named Nixon’s scandals and disgrace as a reason for why they would have voted for McGovern in hindsight (I do wonder if that’s the reason Cathy would have changed her vote, but she doesn’t say and she’s only one), and I think this is the key issue Matt was wondering about. And so the consensus is clear, for better or worse: this group concurs with Lynyrd Skynyrd! 🙂

  33. As Gene Berkman pointed out, the LP was only on the ballot in Colorado and Washington, not California as I previously posted. Sorry about that. It was in part, disgust with the Nixon regime that led to the founding of the LP on December 11, 1971, in the home of David Nolan in a
    suburb of Denver.

  34. Just like Gore, “what would have McGovern Done?” or “would you rather have McGovern instead?”

    Well, we don’t know and speculation, is just speculation. What if Little pulled Pedro in the 8th inning?

  35. You filthy waterheads! How could you vote for Nixon; the man was a vampire–straight undead stuff here, man, pact with the devil. McGovern was the one for me. Anyone who could stand the level of scrutiny and journalistic axe-grinding I was dishing out back then would have been a better leader of the free world than Tricky Dick. But the man knew his football.

    Muskie was my personal coup. I have rarely seen ibogaine do better work.

  36. I’ll vote McG in this silly hindsight election! As a protest to Nam and because of the very serious nature of a President acting above the law.



    PS 365 and a wake up! I think history will show Bush to be far worse than Nixon… if we ever get the tapes.

  37. Oh right. His last name was Schmitz, not Schmidt. But he was Mary Kay LeTourneau’s father. I was right about that.

  38. The implications of being Ms. LaTorneau’s father just hit me. Ewwww.

  39. Hewitt said clearest choice. He didn’t say GOOD choice. Though I suppose he thinks Bush is the superior option; probably right on that, the other candidates at this point are all circus freaks

  40. Has anyone seen that clip from 1964 of Richard Nixon conducting the NBC Orchestra on the Jack Parr show?

    The guy was a twisted genius!

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