THE LOSER: A Near Run Thing

  • Share
  • Read Later

(3 of 4)

By contrast, Humphrey's demonstration that he could do well without Eugene McCarthy's flower power threw the Minnesota Senator's future into serious doubt. The doubt grows even deeper if one considers his odd behavior during the campaign, during which he first refused to endorse Humphrey and then finally did so only grudgingly. Two weeks ago, he declared that "I will not be a candidate of my party for reelection to the Senate from the state of Minnesota in 1970. Nor will I seek the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party in 1972." What would he seek? The night before his announcement, he had insisted: "This is not the last hurrah. I think the Pied Piper will be heard from again."

McCarthy's first priority was to have been the reform of the Democratic Party —a cause that would have gained considerably more momentum if there had been no bombing halt and if Humphrey's defeat had been worse. As it turned out, the cause lost some of its urgency; McCarthy, instead of being a major voice for reform, became more than ever a voice crying out in a wilderness of his own making. He will undoubtedly retain much emotional appeal for his followers, but inside the Democratic Party his real power—always limited—to work change is greatly diminished. Outside the party, perhaps as head of some coalition of youth, suburbanites, college teachers and Minnesota partisans, his influence could be even smaller. Obviously it is time for him to think second thoughts—second thoughts that McCarthy was clearly already pondering when he appeared last week on CBS's Face the Nation. Did McCarthy still feel confident about his future? "Well," replied McCarthy, "I don't know about the Pied Piper."

Although he also opposed Humphrey before Chicago, George McGovern refused to retreat into despond. After he and the remnants of Bobby Kennedy's doves were outvoted in Chicago, McGovern quickly joined Humphrey on the convention podium. And while preoccupied with his own successful campaign for re-election to the Senate from South Dakota, he managed to keep on good terms with all factions of the splintered Democratic Party.

For Ted Kennedy, now 36, the next few years will be mostly a matter of biding his time—speaking his piece on the issues, keeping a skeleton political organization intact, tending to his Senate duties, playing foster father to Bobby's children as well as father to his own three children. He will inevitably be tugged toward the presidency by the party and his own ambition, away from it by his family. From his receptivity to the draft-Kennedy movement in Chicago in August, it seems clear that Ted would opt for the presidency. There is no question that the oldfashioned, Depression-bred Democratic Party will have to be rebuilt. Robert Kennedy may have had the brains and the toughness to do the job; whether Ted can do it has not yet been proved, and will not be as long as he is withdrawn into his sorrow.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4