Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Eugene Joseph "Gene" McCarthy (born March 29, 1916 in Watkins, Minnesota) was a Congressman from Minnesota's Fourth District, from 1949 to 1959, and a United States Senator from Minnesota from 1959 to 1971. McCarthy served as a member of (among others) the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The 1968 Campaign
In 1968, McCarthy ran against incumbent President Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, with the intention of influencing the federal government - then controlled by Democrats - to curtail its involvement in the Vietnam War. A number of antiwar college students and other activists from around the county traveled to New Hampshire to support McCarthy's campaign. Some antiwar students who had the long-haired appearance of hippies chose to cut their long hair and shave off their beards, in order to campaign for McCarthy door-to-door, a phenomenon that led to the informal slogan "Clean for Gene." When McCarthy scored 42 percent to Johnson's 49 percent on March 12, 1968, it was clear that deep division existed among Democrats on the war issue. By this time, Johnson had become inextricably defined by Vietnam, and this demonstration of divided support within his party meant his reelection (only four years after winning the highest percentage of the popular vote in modern history) was unlikely. On March 31, 1968, Johnson announced he would not again seek the presidency.
Despite strong showings in several primaries, McCarthy garnered only 23 percent of the delegates at that year's Democratic convention, largely due to the control of state party organizations over the delegate selection process. Other factors that cobtributed to the attrition of delegates for McCarthy included the entrance into the contest of Bobby Kennedy (RFK) as an at least potentially antiwar candidate a few days after McCarthy's strong showing in New Hampshire. Many delegates for Bobby Kennedy chose to support George McGovern, rather than McCarthy, after RFK was assassinated during his victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, the evening following his victory in the California Democratic primary. Moreover, although the eventual nominee, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, was not a clearly antiwar candidate, there was hope among some antiwar Democrats that Humphrey as President might succeed where Johnson had failed—in extricating the United States from Vietnam.
Effects of the 1968 Campaign
In the aftermath of the chaotic 1968 convention in Chicago, Democrats convened the McGovern-Fraser Commission to reexamine the manner in which delegates were chosen. The commission made a number of recommendations to reform the process, prompting widespread changes in Democratic state organizations and continual democratization for more than a decade. In response, the Republicans also formed a similar commission. Because of these changes, the practical role of national party conventions diminished dramatically. The most immediately visible effect of the reforms was the eventual nomination of national unknown Jimmy Carter by the Democrats in 1976. Some have argued that the increased significance of primaries - which tend to be dominated by party activists - has resulted in candidates who are less nationally palatable than those that might have been chosen in a "smoke-filled room ."
McCarthy would return to politics as a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1972. After the 1972 campaign, he left the Democratic party, and ran as an Independent candidate for President of the United States in 1976, placing third with 740,460 votes (less than 1%). In 1980, he endorsed Libertarian candidate Ed Clark for President, and wrote the introduction to Clark's campaign book A New Beginning (some media reports since have claimed that McCarthy endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1980, and it is entirely possible that he endorsed both at different points in the campaign). In 1982, McCarthy failed in an attempt to reclaim his seat in the Senate, losing the Democratic primary to Mark Dayton.
In 1988, his name appeared on the ballot as the Presidential candidate of a handful of left-wing state parties, such as the Consumer Party in Pennsylvania and the Minnesota Progressive Party in Minnesota. In 1992, returning to the Democratic Party, he entered the New Hampshire primary and campaigned for the Democratic Presidential nomination, but was excluded from most debates by party officials. McCarthy, along with other candidates excluded from the 1992 Democratic debates (including actor Tom Laughlin, two-time New Alliance Party Presidential candidate Lenora Fulani, former Irvine, California mayor Larry Agran, and others) staged protests and unsuccessfully took legal action in an attempt to be included in the debates. In 2000, McCarthy was active in the movement to include Green candidate Ralph Nader in the Presidential debates. As of 2004 he is listed as a member of the board of advisors of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a largely honorary post. He remains a prolific writer, and has authored several books on a variety of subjects in recent years. He is also a published poet.
Books by Eugene McCarthy
- A Liberal Answer to the Conservative Challenge (1964)
- The Limits of Power: America's Role in the World (1968)
- The Year of the People (1969)
- A Political Bestiary, by Eugene J. McCarthy and James J. Kilpatrick (1979) (ISBN 0380465086)
- Gene McCarthy's Minnesota: Memories of a Native Son (1982) (ISBN 0866836810)
- Complexities and Contrarities (1982) (ISBN 0151212023)
- Up Til Now: A Memoir (1987)
- Required Reading: A Decade of Political Wit and Wisdom (1988) (ISBN 0151768803)
- Nonfictional Economics: The Case for Shorter Hours of Work, by Eugene McCarthy and William McGaughey (1989) (ISBN 0275925145)
- A Colony of the World: The United States Today (1992) (ISBN 0781801028)
- Eugene J. McCarthy: Selected Poems by Eugene J. McCarthy, Ray Howe (1997) (ISBN 1883477158)
- No-Fault Politics (1998) (ISBN 0812930169)
- 1968: War and Democracy (2000) (ISBN 1883477379)
- Hard Years: Antidotes to Authoritarians (2001) (ISBN 1883477387)
- Parting Shots from My Brittle Brow: Reflections on American Politics and Life (2005) (ISBN 1555915280)
Edward John Thye
Minnesota Congressional Delegations
Hubert H. Humphrey
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