by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Ray Nothstine writes for the Acton Institute about the late Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who’s remembered most these days for his campaign against incumbent Lyndon Johnson for the Democratic Party’s 1968 presidential nomination.
McCarthy’s history should teach today’s audience a larger lesson.
Despite McCarthy’s glamorized quest for the presidency in 1968 and its infamous campaign slogan, “Clean for Gene,” he was mistakenly memorialized on screen as “Joseph McCarthy” at the 2008 Democrat National Convention, confusing him with the former Republican senator from Wisconsin who had already been dead for more than 50 years.
That itself is a lesson on the limits of politics, as is much of McCarthy’s political trajectory. Seemingly, McCarthy’s stature and example as a prolific voice of conscience had too little staying power within his own party to be remembered by his own name. At first a deep thinker, and an oft-times forgotten footnote, he was increasingly disillusioned by the direction of politics and what it could solve. It’s a disillusionment we should all feel, as politics and governmental power gets elevated into spheres today where it never belonged.
Right now, one can actually find a striking contrast to the political shallowness and selfishness in Congress on the grounds of Capitol Hill. …
Nothstine concludes his piece by returning to McCarthy.
… [W]hether or not one agreed with his peace campaign, he did offer a model of courage to say something was amiss. He restored many people’s hope in institutions and the vital significance of a voice of conscience against herd-minded state action.
The enduring lesson is that all of us have to do a better job of collectively recovering a courageous voice of conscience, if we desire to remind people of the proper limits of government. It’s vitally important that we do so, or our disordered political world will continue to spill over and consume the deeper truths – truths which, while seemingly hidden away, are desperate to be recovered.