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The Presidential candidacy of George McGovern has presented the American left with a dilemma. Radicals have traditionally argued that the American two-party system contains fundamental conflict and leaves important issues undiscussed as both major candidate run for the center, thereby serving as a vehicle for different elements of the same ruling class to continue their domination.
But although many differing interpretations of the McGovern phenomenon have been advanced, the South Dakota Senator is not considered to be just another Hubert Humphrey by the left. The contrast between his positions and those of Richard Nixon is starker than in any Presidential election in recent memory. The left has been forced to take a stand on McGovern and step on to the unfamiliar terrain of a major electoral campaign.
A recent survey of four major left theoriticians reveals that the Indochina War is the overriding issue for the left, and the one that provides a justification for supporting McGovern either actively or passively. Some of the theoreticians point to the repressive future of the Nixon Administration as another reason to push for McGovern, but the war is first and foremost in their minds. The theoreticians almost unanimously dismissed the South Dakota Senator's domestic policies as merely another extension of benevolent welfare statism.
Left support for McGovern however, is provisional. Radicals intend to continue organizing and agitating outside the system without becoming directly embroiled in "new politics" electoral efforts. The McGovern candidacy has not fundamentally altered the radical critique of electoral politics, but it has prompted a certain flexibility. A McGovern victory will aid the Vietnamese, therefore the left will support McGovern.
Daniel Ellsberg '52, who allegedly leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press, said yesterday he is "working night and day" to elect McGovern.
"It is crucially important that Richard Nixon be dethroned." Ellsberg said. "The war is the central issue in this campaign, and the American people have the best chance in years to end the war politically."
Ellsberg said he expected "four more years of bombing" would follow a Nixon victory. "Nixon can't keep the Saigon branch office of the U.S. government open without continued bombing," he added.
"The cynicism many people have about the electoral process is founded in reality." Ellsberg explained. "But this cynicism has blinded people to the precipitous choice in this election."
Ellsberg added that the size of a Nixon victory will be important to the Vietnamese. "Reducing the size of his landslide will save lives," he said.
David Horowitz, an editor of Ramparts Magazine and a noted author and editor, said Saturday that Ramparts has endorsed the South Dakota Senator. "Since the antiwar had created George McGovern, we felt it had a responsibility to become involved in the campaign." he said.
Horowits explained that McGovern's poor showing in the polls in because the South Dakota Senator has waged "a disastrous, boss-ridden campaign."
"It would be better for McGovern to loss but put together a constituency that can expect to win the next one." he said. "McGovern has thrown away his chance to be a leader of a very broad-based movement for the next four years."
Echoing a charge made by more conventional commentators, Horowitz said McGovern has been hurt by his lack of credibility. "The American voter may be racist or materialistic--but he is certainly not dumb," he said. "McGovern is basically soft--he cannot inspire any kind of confidence in the electorate."
Regarding McGovern's domestic proposals, Horowitz said: "It's clear he doesn't want to shake up things.
"If you don't take the system by the balls, you're not going to do anything," he said. "You can't go in saying you are healing things and change the system."
Horowitz said that a McGovern victory would, however, provide an indirect domestic boon to the left. "It's always better for the left to have a liberal in," he explained. "The atmosphere gets very good for organizing."
Horowitz said a Nixon victory would be "pretty demoralizing" but that he did not "foresee any great move toward repression." He said a second term Nixon would benevolently expand trade and try to achieve economic prosperity. "However, the minorities will be cut out," he said. "The race question is underestimated and it may still explode."
Staughton Lynd '50, noted author and organizer, yesterday echoed Horowitz's assessment of the reason the McGovern campaign is faltering. "McGovern's big mistake is that he does not take a few issues and talk about them at length like George Wallace did," he said. "He comes across to working people as someone who has long complicated proposals he keeps changing."
Lynd termed the McGovern candidacy "a belated political expression of the movement of the sixties--blacks, women and youth."
"The success and failures of the McGovern candidacy underline which groups the movement has reached and which groups it still has to work with." Lynd explained. "If the organizing efforts of the seventies succeed, maybe ten years from now we will have a McGovern that can reach these groups."
Carl Oglesby, a past president of SDS, said yesterday he has supported McGovern for some time. "He will end the war," Oglesby said.
Oglesby said McGovern was doing much better until the California primary when "the Kennedys adopted him." "McGovern does better when he returns to the mood of the first part of his campaign," he said. "He should continue to raise people's hair by saying he would go to Hanoi and beg for the prisoners."
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