Saturday, November 05, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: Thomas Eagleton, vice presidential candidate for 18 days in 1972

Today's campaign collectible from a calmer time focuses not on George McGovern, but on his running mate for 18 days.

The Democrats were in serious disarray in 1972. Incumbent Richard Nixon was cruising to re-election, and the Dems endured a rough and tumble run-up to the convention.

McGovern in the primaries was stung by a Robert Novak column quoting an unnamed senator who said McGovern favored amnesty for war deserters, abortion and legalizing marijuana. But he prevailed.

Facing likely defeat against Nixon, McGovern struggled to find a running mate. Eventually he settled on Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton. At the rowdy convention, Eagleton wasn't declared the winner until 1:51 a.m. He and McGovern weren't able to give their acceptance speeches until 2 a.m. So much for prime time.

Things got worse from there. After about two weeks, Eagleton confirmed whispers that he once suffered from depression and had undergone electric shock therapy -- a fact he kept from McGovern.

McGovern said he backed his running mate "1,000 percent," which lasted about a week. Eagleton withdrew from the ticket following the national uproar, replaced by Robert Sargent Shriver.

Eagleton had a distinguished career in the Senate until 1987, and continued as an attorney, commentator and professor in St. Louis.

After Eagleton's 2007 death, Novak revealed the source of the anonymous quote that hurt McGovern in the primaries: Thomas Eagleton.

Given the narrow window of his time on the ticket, finding campaign pins featuring both McGovern and Eagleton can be a challenge. That makes the single one I've found to be a favorite.

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