George McGovern will probably go down in history as the "face" of all the unrest of the 60s. Student activists in the late '60 had grown disenchanted with President Lyndon B. Johnson and America's involvement in the Viet Nam War. In 1968, a strong challenge by Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, an opponent of the war. When Senator Robert Kennedy, another opponent of the war and the brother of slain President John F. Kennedy, joined the race, Johnson dropped out and it looked like America could turn a new direction. When Senator Kennedy was also assassinated, Johnson's Vice President Hubert Humphrey had already joined the race and the establishment triumphed. Humphrey was beaten in the general election by Richard M. Nixon.
In 1972, supporters of George McGovern put together a challenge to Hubert Humphrey and Ed Muskie, who had run as Humphrey's VP in 1968. McGovern, a Senator from South Dakota had entered the 1968 race briefly after Bobby Kennedy's assassination as a friend of the Kennedys and also an anti-war candidate. This time the McGovern supporter were able to gain momentum by organizing in neighborhoods, providing one of the greatest grassroots campaigns in American history. The fight with the Humphrey forces went right to the Democratic National Convention, leading to a split in the party that is still apparent today. McGovern had to give his acceptance speech after midnight and had trouble finding someone who was willing to run on the ticket with him. He picked a Senator from Missouri named Thomas Eagleton, who, it was soon discovered, suffered from depression and had received electro-shock treatments. After promising to support Eagleton, McGovern finally dropped him from the ticket and the campaign was virtually over. McGovern supporters soon found out that Americans may not have been ready for McGovern's Liberal views and many Democrats turned to vote for Nixon, even though they despised the man. On the campaign trail, McGovern was reported to be surly. The McGovern ticket wound up winning one state (Massachusetts) and the District of Columbia.
When the Watergate Scandal was in the process of taking down the Nixon administration, a common bumper sticker was "Don't blame me, I voted for McGovern".
In later years, McGovern gained a reputation as a man of principal and even struck up a friendship with former President Nixon