His effort garnered a paltry 37 percent of the vote in 1972 and won only one state and the District of Columbia in the Nixon re-election landslide. But the South Dakota Senator’s coalition of academics, minorities and liberal unions eventually helped elect Barack Obama.
Farris concludes with a look at the last three men who lost: Al Gore, John Kerry and John McCain. Each has remained relevant after their losing campaigns. After Gore’s prolonged 2000 battle ended more than a month after Election Day, he went on to wide fame as a prophet of climate change. Kerry and McCain returned to the Senate, with Kerry playing a central role in foreign policy as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and McCain resuming his role as political maverick.
Farris suggests that’s a good thing. Continued service to the nation should be embraced, he argues, and something valuable is lost when presidential also-rans are cast aside.
History can celebrate the role of Douglas in keeping the two-party system alive and the Democratic Party viable as the loyal opposition. Ross Perot taught future campaigns how to circumvent the media and speak directly to the public. Before McGovern, William Jennings Bryan led a reborn Democratic Party with a progressive populism that in some ways is still alive today.