A Mighty Long Fall: An Interview With Eugene McCarthy

Senator Eugene McCarthy is America's senior statesman without a party. An Irish-German Minnesota Catholic who left the seminary for academe, McCarthy was elected to the House of Representatives in 1948 and the Senate in 1958. He was the link between the Old Progressives of the Upper Midwest and the postwar liberals; as time goes by, his profile sharpens, and McCarthy seems much closer to Bob LaFollette than to Adlai Stevenson.

His challenge to President Johnson in 1968—an act of political suicide—gave voice to an incipient antiwar tendency in what had been an extremely hawkish Democratic Party. His strong showing in the New Hampshire primary drove LBJ back to his ranch, Bobby Kennedy into the race, and McCarthy into a kind of involuntary exile.

McCarthy ran for President as an independent in 1976 and was all but physically barred from competing in the 1992 Democratic primaries. His contention that we are becoming a country in which "everyone belongs to a corporation and everyone else belongs to the federal government" makes him unwelcome in a party that regards Bill Bradley as a cerebral maverick. Richard Rovere once wrote that McCarthy was too far left on foreign policy and too far right on domestic matters to win the Democratic nomination. Or was he just too far out? He pledged to serve only one term if elected and to fill the White House Rose Garden with "humble vegetables" because...

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