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I was barely 16, a high school junior growing up in a small conservative farm town in Oklahoma. I was weirdly interested in politics, especially for a teenager. Not long after President Nixon won a massive landslide in the 1972 election over his challenger, US Sen. George McGovern (D-SD), I remembered a quote from Pauline Kael being bandied about in the media. At the time, she was the film critic for the New Yorker. I’ve kept it all these years.
Nixon’s landslide should have surprised no one. McGovern’s campaign was a mess almost from the start of the Democratic National Convention when he gave his acceptance speech so late that almost no one watched it. He was forced to ditch his first running mate, Senate colleague Thomas Eagleton (D-MO), over psychiatric treatment (electric shock) reasons for Kennedy family icon and our nation’s first Peace Corps director, Sargent Shriver. That didn’t help.