McGovern: The Man, the Press, the Machine, the Odds | The Nation


McGovern: The Man, the Press, the Machine, the Odds

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Another problem is his excessive faith in the will and capacity of private enterprise to produce in certain areas of domestic concern, particularly in the critical areas of domestic concern, particularly in the critical areas of job training, rural development and housing. Corporate America has an abysmal record in this regard, and McGovern should be taken to task for his cavalier suggestion that some tax write-offs and a new-found spirit of government-private sector cooperation will do the trick. Some 75 million poor marginal blacks, Chicanos, Indians, Puerto Ricans and whites deserve more than vague allusions to industrial "noblesse oblige" at the taxpayer's expense.

His domestic programs—most of which are still vague—are more or less logical extension of New Frontier-Great Society policies. And, unfortunately, a conventional mind-set refuses to admit that most of those overheralded programs of the 1960s have proved to be failures. Contrary to public relations blarney, Model Cities, Jobs in the Private Sector, Head Start and a host of acronymic programs of the 1960s have not brought garden apartments to the inner cities, an outpouring of employment opportunities from the trade unions or Corporate America, or a renaissance of education in the urban ghettos and barrios.

There is a huge gap in America between the availability and the use of resources. The institutional mechanisms devised by politicians and policed by bureaucrats are simply not delivering quality services. Wether it be in education, health, welfare, law enforcement, transportation, narcotics, housing or any number of other areas, most of our citizens—white and black, poor and middle class—have long since given up hope of improvement. It is for precisely these reasons that George Wallace and George McGovern did so well in the primaries.

The lessons of the last decade are that effective social programs cannot be organized in Washington, at university "think tanks" or in the board rooms of large corporations. They must be organized in local neighborhoods. Only htose local organizations can do the job of combining neighborhood resources and talents with the financial and technical aid of the private sector and government into a coherent and long-term development effort that people can believe in and work for. The inadequacy of incremental gains—when even those occur—is the key to the failure of conventional liberalism, and nothing that George McGovern has said indicates that he is conscious of this underlying issue.

There is no question that the McGovern staff has many highly competent technicians, but where are McGovern's substantive people? It takes an exceptional human being to be both, and until late in September there was little evidence of serious, programmatic content emerging from the McGovern mimeograph machine—at least with regard to issues of race and poverty.

But even though McGovern has been slow to come forth with concrete solutions to pressing domestic needs, he still is in a better position than Nixon. The President, who has had four years to put his programs to work, appears to have given up altogether the search for solutions to urgent social problems. And there are a host of other issues where a McGovern administration would seem heaven-sent next to the Nixon gang. A serious analysis of his administrative decisions, legislative requests and personal biases reveal the President to be the ultimate practitioner of political expedience. Mr. Nixon's public pronouncements on nearly every major issue—unemployment, school bussing, welfare reform, tax reform, prison reform, hunger, black capitalism, the Haynsworth and Carswell nominations to the Supreme Court, the drug problem, abortion the William Calley affair, My Lai, the plight of the POWs, Vietnamization, the bombing of the dikes, revenue sharing, the Manson trial, the India-Pakistan War—are phrased for maximum PR effect and are devoid of serious content. They do not even hint at a sensitive understanding of critical social problems, nor do they suggest the quality of leadership that will bring us closer to their solution. It is not by coincidence that most of Nixon's closest personal advisers are ad agency executives and most of McGovern's are journalists and academicians.

The luckless leaders of the tin-cup brigade (Lockheed, Penn Central, ITT, Boeing, and ever so many more) are far more important to the President than old people on fixed incomes, workers with frozen wages, minority groups or the 6 million children suffering from malnutrition. He wants desperately to be re-elected, and he knows which side of the bread has butter. Big campaign money comes from the vaults of industry and Wall Street; Democratic money traditionally comes from the check-off dollars of wage earners. The best Nixon can offer to the vast majority of Americans is half-truths and, with the help of his ad agency-in-residence, he has elevated their utterance to an art form.

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