I eulogize the late senator and presidential candidate over at Bloomberg View. Snippets:
When you take a longer view of his career—especially after he got bounced from the Senate in 1980 during the Republican landslide he helped create—what emerges is a rare public figure whose policy positions shifted to an increasingly libertarian stance in response to a world that's far more complicated than most politicians can ever allow….
McGovern believed that attempts to impose single-value standards were profoundly un-American and "that we cannot allow the micromanaging of each other's lives." But as governments at various levels expand their control of everything from health- care to mortgages to the consumption of soda pop and so much more, that's exactly what's happening.
In 1972, McGovern was out of step with the American public. Not anymore. Large majorities see the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as the mistakes and failures they plainly were. And his criticism of paternalism is wildly popular with everyone but our rulers. An August 2012 CNN/ORC International Poll found that only 40 percent of registered voters want the government to "promote traditional values," a finding that is down from 57 percent in 2008. CNN also found that "six in 10 say that government is doing too much that should be left to businesses and individuals."
These days, it's politicians of both parties who are out of step with the voting public. As the nation prepares to pay its last respects to George McGovern, we can only hope that our leaders will learn from his example and become less confident in telling us how to live our lives.