As the Cold War developed, McGovern became a typical anti-war fellow traveler of the American Communists. Left out of most of the obituaries is the fact that McGovern was a delegate to the Henry A. Wallace Progressive Party convention in 1948 that nominated Wallace for a presidential run in a party created and dominated by the American Communist Party. A small faction of delegates from Vermont sought to pass a resolution calling for the party to have an independent foreign policy. The Communists took that as an effort of some members to not support the Soviet Union. The resolution was defeated, as delegates including McGovern voted to reject it.
Later, he would take positions akin to those Wallace took in 1948, arguing that the Cold War was being waged because the United States refused to accommodate serious Soviet concerns for their own security. In one sense, his own massive defeat in 1972 — losing the Electoral College vote in every state except Massachusetts, including his own South Dakota — showed that McGovern proved as unpopular to the American people as Wallace was in 1948.
With the McGovern rules created by a commission he chaired, the Democratic Party was transformed into an institution beholden to special interest groups of the Left that easily used those rules to pick McGovern himself as their candidate. His effort began the slow takeover of the once mainstream party by forces of the far Left.
McGovern himself never had a real chance. I recall watching him on the main convention night, postponing his acceptance speech until 1:00 a.m. — way after most viewers were asleep — to meet outside the convention with left-wing protesters from the Maoist Progressive Labor Party. Any major party candidate who would do such a thing was clearly more than out of touch with the reality of American politics.
Years later, I heard McGovern at the PEN International Writers Conference in New York City, where he spoke on a panel with Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., and Bruno Kreisky, the former chancellor of Austria who was virulently anti-Israel. At that meeting, McGovern said that had he been elected president, the first thing he would have done to deal with the Middle East would have been to go to ask Kreisky for advice. Kreisky, with McGovern’s support at the panel, also called for recognition by the West of Communist East Germany, and rejected any policy that would have sought to isolate the regime. It was clear then, listening to McGovern at that event, what a disaster he would have been for his country had he been elected.