Gene McCarthy Dies
At age 89
My first involvement in presidential politics came with the Gene McCarthy campaign in 1968. My parents were active in the antiwar movement and they volunteered early enough to become county coordinators. We had a fundraising party at our house at which the celebrities were Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss. I remember wondering if anybody was going to show up in our very Republican area; as it turned out there were cars parked up and down the block for a quarter mile.
I remember being a little disappointed when McCarthy didn't win New Hampshire, but my parents were elated that he came close. Shortly afterwards, President Johnson stunned the nation by dropping out of the race. Bobby Kennedy got in, as did Hubert Humphrey. I watched the Chicago convention and became radicalized at the sight of the cops beating kids. And in the end, Richard Nixon won the White House.
I stayed pretty leftist until about 1982 when I began reading the Wall Street Journal on a daily basis and debating with one of the guys in the office. He always seemed to have a good answer for me, and I was still somewhat lazy about learning Democratic talking points.
Reagan was a big part of the difference. His sunny optimism was refreshing after Carter, and he delivered a strong economy, something that the country hadn't seen for almost a decade. I remember when he was shot, hearing that he'd joked with the doctors that he hoped they were Republicans. That impressed the heck out of me. And so when it came time to vote in 1984, I gave the Republicans a chance.