WASHINGTON -- I see that President Barack Obama has filed as a candidate for re-election in 2012. I previously suggested that he get to work early on his presidential library and forgo the race, but he is insistent. Well, I tried.
Though some in the media are covering for him, his announcement is the earliest of any modern president's. It continues a trend that began in 1972. That was when then-Sen. George McGovern captured the Democratic presidential nomination, though he lost in the autumn of that year in a squeaker. Richard Nixon stole the election, 47,169,911 to 29,170,383. Tricky Dick got 60.7 percent of the vote, the largest in history except for Lyndon Johnson's 61.1 percent. Watergate changed history.
Using what came to be called the McGovern reforms in the 1972 Democratic National Convention, the very same McGovern captured the nomination. Thus began the trend, the era of the chronic campaigner. Since 1972, the Democratic Party has nominated a chronic campaigner every time.
McGovern had been running since 1968, when he declared his candidacy three weeks before the convention and ran as a stand-in for the assassinated Robert Kennedy. No one from the Democratic establishment noticed anything afoot. The establishment granted the "New Politics" movement, whose members had created such a mad pothering at the 1968 convention, something called the Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection for the 1972 convention. When McGovern was made chairman of the "Reform Commission," as it came to be called, the establishment still did not take heed. McGovern obviously had been running since 1968, but as Teddy White noted in 1973, "no one considered McGovern a serious Presidential contender, but he was everyone's personal favorite. ... Robert Kennedy had called him 'the most decent man in the Senate.'"
Well, the Democratic Party has been stuck with the chronic campaigner since 1972. The McGovern reforms remain, for the most part, in place. So if you have the time, you, too, can become a chronic campaigner. Jimmy Carter ran the theretofore most grueling campaign in history and was lucky to have Gerald Ford as an opponent and Watergate. There was not a village too small for him to visit. If two people gathered on a street corner, the chances are Jimmy was there with his hand out and his idiot smile. The next chronic campaigner to win the presidency was Bill Clinton, and he still is campaigning for something. Most recently, MSNBC named him "President of the World."