The Presidential Election of 1972The Presidential election of 1972 had two strong candidates, PresidentRichard Nixon and George McGovern.
There were many issues which had a greatdeal of importance to the election. The Vietnam war and the stability of theeconomy at the time were two main factors. The election ended in one thelargest political scandals in U. S.
history, being the Watergate break-in, andcover-up, by President Richard Nixon. The Democratic party had a large selection of candidates from which tochoose for the primary elections of 1972. There were many well known candidateswho entered the race for the nomination. The leading contenders were Edmund S. Muskie of Maine, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota and Hubert H.
Humphreyof Minnesota. Other candidates who didn’t receive quite as much recognitionwere Alabama governor George C. Wallace, Mayor Sam Yorty of Los Angeles, Rep. Wilbur D.
Mills of Arkansas, Sen. Vance Hartke of Indiana, former Senator EugeneJ. McCarthy of Minnesota, Mayor John Lindsay of New York City and Rep. ShirleyChisholm of New York. Chisholm was the first black to run in a series ofpresidential primaries.
” (Congressional Quarterly, “Guide to U. S. Elections”,Third ed. , 1994, pg.
603-605. ) 5Governor Wallace had a devastating moment in his campaign while inMaryland. “In early May a sick young man named Arthur Bremer altered thepolitics of 1972. As Governor Wallace campaigned toward certain victory in theMaryland primary, Bremer stepped forward out of a shopping-center crowd and shothim four times. Wallace survived, but at the cost of being paralyzed from thewaist down.
Maryland’s voters surged out on election day to give Wallace a hugevictory, his last of 1972. While Wallace recuperated, the millions who wouldhave voted for him as a Democratic or independent candidate began to move inoverwhelming proportions behind the candidacy began to move in overwhelmingproportions behind the candidacy of Richard Nixon. ” (Benton, William. “U.
S. Election of 1972. ” Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year. pg.
12-13, 1973ed. )1When the California primary was approaching, Humphrey tried to save thenomination for himself. “Humphrey excoriated his old senate friend (McGovern)for his expensive ideas on welfare and his desire to cut the defense budget. Italmost worked. But McGovern won all of California’s giant delegation, and beatHumphrey 44. 3% to 39.
1% in the popular vote. “5 That loss spelled out the endfor Humphrey’s Democratic nomination. Many felt Edmund Muskie was sure to win the Democratic nomination forthe election of 1972. “All political observers agreed on the certainty thatSenator Edmund Muskie of Maine would be the Democratic party’s nominee.
“1 “Asthe front-runner, he wanted to snare the nomination early and so was committedto running in all of the first eight presidential primaries. ProminentDemocratic politicians lined up eagerly to endorse him. Among them: Gov. JohnGilligan of Ohio; Leonard Woodcock, President of the United Auto Workers; IowaSenator Harold Hughes; and Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp. “1 Muskie hadmany supporters, and a good chance of receiving the nomination, perhaps evenbecoming the next President of the United States.
President Nixon knew thatMuskie had a good chance of winning and felt he had to do something to getMuskie out of the race. Nixon had seven men who were loyal to him make up falsepress releases about Muskie, and his wife. These press releases claimed thatMuskie had had affairs with both men and women, that he beat his wife, and thenthe topper which claimed that Muskies’ wife was an alcoholic. These falsestatements destroyed Muskies’ campaign and reputation of being a calmtrustworthy candidate. Then one day “mounting the bed of a truck parked outsidethe offices of the archconservative Manchester Union Leader, Muskie launched anattack on the paper’s publisher, William Loeb.
As he spoke of Loeb’sunflattering remarks about Mrs. Muskie, the senator’s voice cracked, and thecrowd saw tears form in his eyes. “1 This incident badly dented Muskie’s image. After that event, people saw Muskie as a weak person. They didn’t want a weakperson running the country. “Muskie had finished fourth in Pennsylvania, behindwinner Humphrey, Wallace, and McGovern, and a distant second to McGovern inMassachusetts.
He then withdrew with dignity. ” 1 Muskie later said of thisincident: “It changed people’s minds about me, of what kind of a guy I was. They were looking for a strong, steady man, and here I was weak. ” “(Congressional Quarterly, “Chronology of Presidential Elections”, Fourth ed. 1994, pg. 329-330)6After a long primary campaign, and all the primary elections, SenatorGeorge McGovern won the nomination for the Democratic party in the 1972presidential election.
“McGovern did not get to deliver his acceptance speech–perhaps the best speech of his career–until 2:48 a. m. , when most televisionviewers were already in bed. “6 Senator McGovern had a difficult campaign aheadof him. His opposition, President Richard Nixon, already had the upper hand onhim because he had been elected President four years before. President Nixonwas the Republican candidate.
“President Richard Nixon told a reporter that”the election was over the day he (Sen. George McGovern) was nominated. ” “1McGovern campaigned very hard. “Between September 3 and September 15, the SouthDakotan barnstormed through 29 cities and towns in 18 states covering some14,000 miles and being seen by more than 175,000 people. ” (U.
S. News and WorldReport, “Can Democrats Close the Gap, Sept. 25, 1972, Vol. LXXXIII, No. 13,pg. 17-22)3 McGovern knew, if he wanted to win, he had to focus on the importantissues of 1972.
There were four very important issues. These were the war in Vietnam,the economy, foreign policy, and defense. The two major ones were the war inVietnam, and the economy. McGovern was sure that if he was elected president,he would be able to end the war. “We will be able to end the war by a simpleplan that need not be kept secret: The immediate total withdrawal of allAmericans from Southeast Asia.
” (Congressional Quarterly’s Guide to U. S. Elections, “1972 Conventions”, Third ed. , 1994 pg.
. 127-132. )4 McGovern goes onto say in another interview that “I will stake my whole political career onbeing able to withdraw our forces and get our prisoners out within 90 days afterinauguration. I really think I can do it faster than that. ” (U. S.
News andWorld, “How McGovern Sees The Issues,” August 7, 1972, Vol. LXXIII No. 6, pg. 18-22)8 McGovern, like everyone else wanted to end the war in Vietnam as soon aspossible. McGovern felt the Nixon could have ended the war years earlier, andcould have spared all those lives. “There’s nothing that we can negotiate nowin ending this war that we couldn’t have done four years ago.
We haven’t gainedanything in these four years of continued slaughter that’s gone on in thispresent Administration. “8 “I’ll be one of those rejoicing even if Nixon doesend this war and it does accrue to his advantage. I just wish he had done itfour years ago. If he had, I might not now be running for the President.
“8McGovern makes it seem as though his sole purpose, and reason for wanting tobecome President is to simply end the Vietnam war. Nixon along with the Republican party, and their platform stated that”We will continue to seek a settlement of the Vietnam War which will permit thepeople of Southeast Asia to live in peace under political arrangements of theirown choosing. We take specific note of the remaining major obstacle tosettlement-Hanoi’s demand that the United States overthrow the Saigon governmentand impose a Communist-dominated government on the South Vietnamese. We standunequivocally at the side of the President in his effort to negotiate honorableterms, and in his refusal to accept terms which would dishonor this country.
“4”We insist that, before all American forces are withdrawn from Vietnam, Americanprisoners must be returned and a full accounting made of the missing in actionand of those who have died in enemy hands. ” (U. S. News and World Report,”Promises Republican Make,” Sept. 4, 1972, Vol.
LXXIII No. 10, pg. 28-29)2Although the Republicans held the basic idea that the Democrats did, which wasto end the war in Vietnam as soon as possible, they didn’t specify an allottedamount of time in which they would accomplish this goal as did the Democrats. The second major issue of 1972 was the economy. “The Nixon recordincreased unemployment by 3 million people.
“8 There were price freezes, andwage-price controls. McGovern and the Democrats stated that their goal was forfull employment, and for those who are unable to work, that they would receive aguaranteed income. “The heart of a program of economic security based on earnedincome must be creating jobs and training people to fill them. Millions of jobs– real jobs, not make-work — need to be provided. Public service employmentmust be greatly expanded in order to make the government the employer of lastresort and guarantee a job for all. ” “What I offer is a balanced, full-employment economy–where we can provide enough, both to protect our interestabroad and to bring progress at home.
“4Part of McGovern’s economic plan included defense spending cut backs. “What I offer is not simply a set of promises, but a specific plan to pay forthose promises. First, I would reduce by approximately 10 billion dollars ineach of the next three years the rapidly escalating, lavish Nixon militarybudget. Current spending wastes billions of dollars on planes that do not fly,and missiles that will not work. I will never permit America to become asecond-rate power in the world.
Neither can we permit America to become asecond-rate society. And if we choose a reasonable military budget, we will nothave to choose between the decline of our security and the deterioration of ourstandard of life. “(U. S. News and World Report, “From McGovern: A New BlueprintFor Taxes, Welfare,” Vol.
LXXIII No. 11, pg. 14-16)7 Our country does not onlyneed to be strong militarily but also economically. Our military is animportant part of our economy, but it shouldn’t be one of the major influencingfactors that determines the health of the economy. The Democrats felt that”Spending for military purposes is greater by far than federal spending foreducation, housing, environmental protection, unemployment insurance or welfare. Unneeded dollars for the military at once add to the tax burden and pre-emptfunds from programs of direct and immediate benefit to our people.
Moreover,too much that is now spent on defense not only adds nothing to our strength butmakes us less secure by stimulating other countries to respond. “4Just as the Democrats want a healthy economy the Republicans want thesame thing. Our country needs a healthy economy to survive, and the Republicansfeel they can give us that strong economy. “We stand for full employment–a jobfor everyone willing and able to work in an economy freed of inflation, itsvigor not dependent upon war or massive military spending. We will fight forresponsible federal budgets to help assure steady expansion of the economywithout inflation.
The right of American citizens to buy, hold or sell goodsshould be re-established as soon as this is feasible. “2 The Republicans agreethat the economy shouldn’t be based on war or huge amounts of defense expensesto keep our economy, but they also feel that the military is an important partof our country. Traditionally the Republican party has always supported a strongmilitary, and feels it is necessary to keep America as one of the world’sstrongest nations. President Nixon, and the Republican party stated that “Byadhering to a defense policy based on strength at home, partnership abroad and awillingness to negotiate everywhere, we hold that lasting peace is nowachievable. We will not let America become a second-class power, dependent forsurvival on the good will of adversaries. We draw a sharp distinction betweenprudent reductions in defense spending and the meat-ax slashes with which someAmericans are now beguiled by the political opposition.
We wholeheartedlysupport an all-volunteer armed force and expect to end the draft by July, 1973. We will continue to pursue arms-control agreements–but we recognize that thiscan be successful only if we maintain sufficient strength. “2 Basically Nixonand the Republican Party were stating that we need a strong military and ahealthy economy, but cutting defense spending is not the solution to theeconomic problem. Another major issue focused on during the election of 1972 was foreignpolicy. Senator McGovern, and the Democratic party stated the next DemocraticAdministration should “End American participation in the war in Southeast Asia. Re-establish control over military activities and reduce military spending,where consistent with national security.
Defend America’s real interests andmaintain our alliances, neither playing world policeman nor abandoning old andgood friends. Not neglect America’s relations with small third-world nations inplacing reliance on great power relationships. Return to Congress, and thepeople, a meaningful role in decisions on peace and war, and make informationpublic, except where real national defense interests are involved. “4 TheDemocratic party didn’t want other countries to look upon the U.
S. as thepoliceman of the world. They also wanted to make sure the U. S. remainedfriendly with small third world countries, because we may need to trade withthem, or we might need raw materials we don’t have. The Republicans had a different idea on foreign policy.
They said that”Never before has our country negotiated with so many nations on so wide a rangeof subjects — and never with greater success. ” They go on to say “We willpress for expansion of contacts with the peoples of Eastern Europe and thePeople’s Republic of China, as long isolated from most of the world. “2 TheRepublican Party wanted to improve the relationships with countries that havebeen cut off from much of the world. The Republicans felt they were doing agood job with foreign policy, and didn’t think they should change much ofanything they were doing. After all the months of campaigning, and voting were through, RichardNixon was reelected the new President of the United States.
“Nixon swept backinto the White House on Nov. 7 with a devastating landslide victory overMcGovern. He carried a record of 49 states for a total of 520 electoralvotes. “5 Nixon did have a couple of advantages that McGovern didn’t. For one,the people had confidence in him since he had been elected once before.
Theyknew what kind of a President he was, and what they as the constituents couldexpect from him. Second, McGovern made a bad decision when he chose his vicepresident running mate. McGovern had chosen Sen. Thomas F.
Eagleton of Missouri. “Barely 10 days after selection of the Democratic ticket, on July 25, Eagletondisclosed that he voluntarily had hospitalized himself three times between 1960and 1966 for “nervous exhaustion and fatigue. “McGovern strongly supported hisrunning mate at the time, but in the following days, his support for theMissouri senator began to wane. After a meeting with McGovern on July 31,Eagleton withdrew from the ticket.
“4 Eagleton badly damaged the image ofMcGovern. The constituents lost their confidence in McGovern and in hisdecision making power. They felt that McGovern may not make wise decisions ifhe was elected the next President of the U. S. McGovern was also somewhatradical views.
“CRP focused early and often on the more radical-sounding viewsof McGovern, highlighting his support of amnesty for young people who fled toCanada to avoid the draft, his sometime musings that marijuana might better belegalized, and his purported support of legalized abortion. “1 Many felt thatMcGovern’s views may have been more radical and outlandish than some hadsupported. After Nixon was elected to office, “It appeared in 1972 that Americanpolitics was entering an age of calm consensus. The economy was temporarilystrong: opposition to the Vietnam War had faded as the two sides negotiated inParis for an end to the war. “6 Then in Nixon’s political career “A warlikeatmosphere between the media (as well as other perceived enemies of theadministration that appeared on Nixon’s “enemies list”) and the mushroomingWatergate scandal combined to create a dark side to U.
S. politics in the 1970’s. At its simplest level, the Watergate affair was “a third-rate burglary” and asubsequent cover-up by President Nixon and his aides. In the summer of 1972,several employees of the Committee to Re-elect the President were arrested afterthey were discovered breaking into and bugging the Democratic NationalCommittee’s offices at the posh Watergate complex in Washington. The break-inwas not a major issue in the 1972 election, but the next year congressionalcommittees began an investigation. “6 Along with the congressional committeesinvestigation, two reporters from the Washington Post, named Bob Woodward, andCarl Berstein did some investigating of their own.
They had a politician whoknew about all that was going on with the Watergate scandal, nicknamed “DeepThroat. ” Deep Throat supplied the two reporters with the information theyneeded to tear open the Watergate scandal. These two reporters open up theWatergate scandal, and all the participants involved. “During the investigation,a presidential aide revealed that Nixon had secretly taped Oval Officeconversations with aides.
When the Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Coxordered Nixon to surrender the tapes, Nixon ordered Cox fired. Then the SupremeCourt ruled that Nixon had to surrender even more tapes, which indicated that hehad played an active role in covering up the Watergate scandal. Nixon resignedthe presidency when his impeachment and conviction appeared certain. Theimpeachment articles charged him with obstruction of justice, abuse ofpresidential powers and contempt of Congress. President Nixon resigned onAugust 9, 1974. The Watergate affair was perhaps the greatest political scandalin U.
S. history. For the first time, a president was forced to leave officebefore his term expired. “6Vice President Gerald Ford became the President of the United States. President Ford then granted Richard Nixon a full pardon of the crimes committedagainst the presidency, and the people of the United States.