Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research, 18:2 (Fall 2008) p. 245. Copyright © 2008 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Bruce Miroff's The Liberals' Moment uses rich historical research and a trove of interviews with nearly 50 McGovern campaign staffers and activists to argue similarly that the campaigns of 1968 and particularly 1972 shaped the Republican Party's resurgence in American politics. Miroff's rationale for why this is so is entirely different, however: South Dakota Senator George McGovern's 1972 presidential election defeat exposed an ideologically fractured Democratic Party that, nearly 40 years later, is still struggling to find its identity.

Miroff supports his argument by carefully documenting McGovern's campaign and the efforts of his staff of upstart politicos that included Gary Hart (later to become a senator and presidential candidate himself) and a young Bill Clinton. He finds a campaign that provided an early home for antiwar protestors and displaced liberals such as feminists and gay rights activists. That inclusive confederation drew McGovern away from a party mainstream that had long relied on the support of unions and Southern Democrats. Miroff finds in interviews with campaign staffers that the McGovern campaign's diverse coalition made 245 agreeing on a unified vision and strategy and crafting a coherent political agenda nearly impossible; so much so, in fact, that Nixon easily won the 1972 election and even defeated McGovern in the senator's home state.