George McGovern passed away on Sunday. A minister’s son, McGovern flew bombers in World War Two, taught college, and served in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. He is best known, however, as the Democratic Presidential candidate in 1972 who lost decisively to President Richard Nixon in one of the greatest landslides in history. McGovern is said to have remarked, “For many years, I wanted to run for the Presidency in the worst possible way – and last year I sure did."
Less than two years later, Nixon resigned in disgrace, leaving a stain on the Presidency and a mixed legacy.
McGovern was an unabashed liberal and a vocal opponent to the war in Vietnam. You might not agree with him, but you always knew where he stood. The same cannot be said about Nixon.
There are at least two lessons here. First, the electorate can make bad choices. Two-thirds of Americans voted for Nixon in the popular vote and he carried 49 states in the Electoral College. Popularity does not always assure success and the person selected to serve as President of the United States is not always a paragon of virtue.
Second, what one values will endure. Although he was a good leader in many ways, Nixon died under a cloud because of his “dirty tricks” and subterfuge. McGovern died without regrets because he never gave up on his values. He took unpopular positions that reflected his ingrained convictions.
Jesus said, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26, NIV) Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?