Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Sometimes, a person enters a stage and for just a few moments commands the attention of the world. A person who in the waning days days of 1967 and the early days of 1968fought the most powerful man in the world over the War in Vietnam. The man, the hero, is Gene McCarthy.

Dissident Democrats began looking for someone to challenge the re-election of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Spring primaries. Many considered it, but the only high ranking Democrat willing to step forward was Senator Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota.

After McCarthy won 42 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, the contest changed. On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced that he would not run for re-election. Two days later, LBJ received only 35 percent of the votes in the Wisconsin primary, to McCarthy's 56 percent.

The political issues that ultimately surrounded the 1968 convention caused the democrats to reform the entire primary process and we "enjoy" that process even through this convention. For better of worse, each primary is now won or lost on the basis of a pro-rata share of the votes. That is the main reason why the convention is a great big party and very little real work gets done, but that is another story.

What really mattered was that Senator McCarthy, in the midst of the terrible police riots in Chicago (and it was a police riot), took the hurt and wounded people (students mostly) into his campaign headquarters and ministered to them. He practiced the gospel message -- he was the man that rose above history -- and now is but another footnote not unlike Shirley Chisolm and Barbara Jordan.