Exactly the sort of starry-eyed, bullet-spraying hyperbole that drains credibility from any brand of political discourse, Stephen Vittoria’s exhaustive portrait of McGovern and his career leading up to the derailed 1972 presidential campaign may be useful as home-front history, if only it didn’t rant, yowl, and wet its pants so much. McGovern’s path into Nixon’s brick wall is punctuated by looming labels CHAOS, DARKNESS, JOY, TRAGEDY, etc.; Amy Goodman’s narration, though correct, has a petulant, Spanish Inquisition ring to it, only made more childish by the film’s cheap idealization of the senator from South Dakota as some kind of pacifist Savonarola, overdue for canonization. (The titular grab from Lerner & Loewe is indicative.) The lesson learned by the Democratic Party in ’72—that an outspoken liberal with even a moderate sense of ethical integrity has a dead yellow dog’s chance of becoming an American president—is only reinforced, and so the attempts at applying the McGovern paradigm to today’s struggles are dubious at best. The realities—in corpses, limbs, and lies—of Vietnam may be clearly dissected, but Norman Mailer’s St. George and the Godfather is a far more entrancing version of the campaigner’s tale.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 6, 2005