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George McGovern concedes defeat in the 1972 presidential election, in a speech that has influenced my whole life. I’d volunteered on his campaign, literally (almost) every day that fall. The night before the election, I sat up in bed with a legal pad and map of all the states by electoral votes (no FiveThirtyEight or RealClearPolitics then) and listed all the ones McGovern would need to get to 270. It was hard: most of the states looked tough and he was 20 points behind in the national polls.
My list didn’t matter much. The next day, November 7, McGovern lost 49 states, winning only Massachusetts and D.C. I spent the last hours before the polls closed leafletting at a polling place - desperate to do my last bit to elect McGovern and stop the war - and then went to the local Democratic headquarters in some union hall, where we watched McGovern give this speech.
It isn’t on the video, but the band was playing “Here Comes The Sun” as McGovern took the stage. Watch till the end, he makes an impassioned summation of fighting for principle in the face of overwhelming defeat. After he was done, a local politician of the old school gave a stirring speech of his own to the dejected room on the same theme of not giving up.
McGovern didn’t give up. Read this amazing profile by Joe McGinniss that ran in the NY Times magazine in May 1973, an account of McGovern campaigning in South Dakota for his Senate reelection, a few months after that state was one of the 49 that rejected him for president.