Last updated on September 27th, 2011
As we gear up to elect a U.S. president next year, I’m thinking about the first presidential contest in which I took part.
I had a small part. I voted.
It was 1972, George McGovern vs. Richard Nixon. The fate — and as it turned out, the weight — of the nation hung in the balance.
Nixon won in an epic landslide. He was the incumbent, and viewed as a pragmatic centrist, if oily. McGovern was viewed as a left-wing pacifist weenie — seldom a winning image in American national politics.
Never mind that McGovern was the one with the World War II combat record and decorations. Image is everything.
On election night, I was on the road and had my car radio tuned to WJR Detroit,”the Great Voice of the Great Lakes.” About 6:30 p.m., there was a news flash: “The polls have just closed in Granite Notch, New Hampshire, and CBS Radio News is projecting that Richard Milhous Nixon has been re-elected President of the United States.”
They don’t call ’em like that anymore. Not that early, anyway.
I voted for Mr. Nixon. Am I ashamed? Yes, but not because I voted for a shady slime-ball. I knew that going in, and it was politics, after all.
But if McGovern had won, American history would have changed for the better in obvious ways. Without a sitting president in the cross-hairs, the Watergate scandal would have gotten much less attention and “Deep Throat” would be just a forgotten porn movie. There would have been no presidential resignation.
Thus, Gerald Ford would never have been president. Without Ford in the White House, the career of comedian Chevy Chase would have suffered and the long-running Saturday Night Live might have died in its infancy.
A less obvious benefit, but the one I care the most about, would’ve been the easing of the obesity epidemic. Maybe we could have avoided it altogether.
Am I saying that Nixon in the White House contributed to the fattening of America?
No, I’m saying that McGovern in the Senate did.
From 1968 to 1977, McGovern was the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. It was commonly referred to as the McGovern committee. In early 1977, the McGovern committee issued a report entitled Dietary Goals for the United States, which advocated that Americans eat more fruits, grains and vegetables and less meat, eggs and dairy products. In other words, more carbs and less fat. The American waist-line has expanded steadily ever since.
You might think that having McGovern in the White House would’ve made things worse, giving him a bully pulpit for his fat-phobic message. I don’t think so. Presidents don’t have time for that sort of nonsense. They don’t need to give dietary advice to leave their mark on history.
Electing McGovern president would’ve kept him, and us, out of trouble.
It was only after losing the 1972 election that McGovern took his select committee in the direction of telling Americans how to eat. Prior to that, it had focused on the issues of hunger and malnutrition.
If we had put George McGovern in the White House in 1972, we’d be thinner for it today.
My advice for 2012: consider all the angles.
Disagree, if anything, he could use the bully pulpit to promulgate even more carb-centric standards and legislation as President.
Brian S says
The only time in my life that I changed what I was eating for a period of time to lose weight, I chose a high carb, low fat diet. Didn’t even cut out beer. Lost all kinds of weight doing it.
Andrew Martin Lale says
Your headline for this piece should have been “Hundreds of millions of Americans change diet because of obscure Congressional Committe Report”. The implausibility of that argument is built right in.
It may seem an obscure report to you, but the “food pyramid” that appears in thousands of nutrition guides and schoolbooks is created using those guidelines, and it is simply a fact that America’s obesity epidemic coincides with the medical/government communties effort to substitute carbs for fat in our daily diets.
But the McGovern report only cemented what had been going on for years…. since at least the 1950’s when President Eisenhower’s heart attack first put the spotlight on “evil” fat in our diets.
Then again, I wouldn’t really blame McGovern…. anyone heading that Committee would have listened to the same experts and advisors…. and been just as wrong.
Actually, McGovern didn’t listen to the experts. The experts wanted to wait until they had more data before they promoted any change in our diet. Mc Govern said that, as a Senator, he didn’t have the luxury of waiting.
Steve Skubinna says
Hmmm. Kind of like the AGW alarmist the past two decades.
Dave Bastin says
I have a question for you. In your weight loss journey, did you find it more important to watch the level of carbs or calories? Or, should I watch both? When did you see the greatest weight loss (by lowering carb levels or by lowering calories)?
Dave Bastin says
Thanks for the help.
I never considered this result of that famous election. Thanks!