Former Sen. George McGovern (D-South Dakota), the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, passed away Sunday morning at 90 years old. He was admitted to hospice late last week.

Senator McGovern was the first presidential candidate I had the opportunity to cast my vote for. 1972 was the first year 18-year olds had the right to vote. I followed his campaign throughout the summer. The Democratic National Convention was in Miami. (The Republicans had their convention in Miami, also.)

The convention had its share of drama; McGovern did not get a chance to give his acceptance speech until 2:30 in the morning. The convention gave us our first look at Willie Brown, before he was speaker of the California State Assembly and mayor of San Francisco. That’s when he gave his “Give me back my delegation!” speech. The convention was a wild event, but not as crazy as Chicago in 1968.

McGovern picked Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-Missouri) as his running mate, but that did not last long. He had to step down because he admitted he had electric-shock therapy for depression. After that, the McGovern campaign went into a tailspin that it would not recover from. R. Sargent Shriver replaced Eagleton.

On Election Day, I cast my vote for Senator McGovern and watched TV that night as my candidate was buried in a 49-state landslide for Richard Nixon. The next day, I did not go to school, I was so devastated that my candidate lost. Instead, I went to 7Eleven, got some coffee and doughnuts and a newspaper. I really believed that McGovern was the better candidate, especially looking back now after the Watergate scandal, in which Nixon had to resign in 1974.

I believed in some of the issues Senator McGovern stood for like his position on the war in Vietnam and on civil rights. I think that America would have been put on a better course had he won the election.

McGovern a loser? Nah. America became the loser in November 1972.

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