George McGovern is a reminder of the days when the Democratic Party actually supported democratic values of peace, an anti-poverty agenda, and civil liberties—values that seem hard-to-find in today’s party, where the Dennis Kuciniches and Barbara Lees, Alan Graysons, and James McGoverns of the world are a tiny isolated minority at the far-left edge of a party filled with “centrists” who are less willing to back a progressive agenda than Richard Nixon was during his presidency. How can you take seriously a party that claims to be progressive and lets people like Ben Nelson and Steny Hoyer define itself?
Where are the towering figures like Barbara Jordan, Birch Bayh, Bela Abzug, Shirley Chisolm, Tom Harkin, James Abourezk and so many others—all of whom served with George McGovern in Congress? Where is even a figure like Lyndon Johnson, able to grow past his southern segregationist heritage and shepherd through a series of civil rights bills? These were Democrats who were not afraid to speak their mind, not afraid to fight for justice, and willing to do what they could to steer the US toward a better path. They didn’t turn tail and start mumbling apologies any time someone called them a liberal as if it were some kind of curse word instead of a badge of honor—a disgraceful path embraced by Michael Dukakis during his 1988 Presidential run, and by far too many Democrats since.