In 1972 the Vietnam War was in high-gear and the nation was divided in a way it hadn’t been since perhaps the days before the Civil War. Anti-war protests turned to riots as police battled protesters in the streets. And Richard Nixon, the polarizing figure at the center of it all was running for a second term as President of The United States.
The man who ran against him on the Democratic ticket was George McGovern. There were high hopes among those who actively sought an end to the War. But McGovern was essentially trounced by Nixon in one of the dirtiest campaigns ever fought. Mis-steps by McGovern compounded the loss. He garnered only 17 electoral votes, and Nixon went on to a second, truncated term that ended when he resigned the office in disgrace.
McGovern served as a B-24 bomber pilot in Europe during World War II. After that war he returned to his native South Dakota and became a professor of history and political science. In 1956 he ran for the U.S. Congress, where he served two terms. In 1962, after a stint as a special assistant to President John F. Kennedy, McGovern was elected to the Senate, and won reelection in 1968 and in 1974. McGovern returned to teaching in the 1980s and also served in various capacities in government and the United Nations through the first decade of the 21st century.