Jack Newfield Plumbs the Depths of Reform at the ’72 Democratic National Convention


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
July 20, 1972, Vol. XVII, No. 29

Of reform hacks and guideline junkies
By Jack Newfield

MIAMI BEACH — Those who say patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels have not fully explored the possibilities of reform.

I have reached this conclusion after attending the 1972 Democratic National Convention as a McGovern delegate elected from Manhattan’s 20th C.D. It was essentially a successful convention. McGovern was nominated. Humphrey was rejected. The platform is good. There was none of the violence that ruined the 1968 convention. Formerly excluded groups participated in an open convention process. There is even a chance the party can be unified before November.

But a minority of NDC delegates from Westchester, Nassau, and New York City ruined the New York caucuses with ego trips. The same dozen NDC heavies spoke on every subject. They turned every question into a Byzantine debate over procedure. The egotism, the pettiness, the hypocrisy, the poor judgment of these super-pure reformers made Joe Crangle and Matt Troy look like Plato and Voltaire. My choice for the next chairman of the NDC is Bobby Fischer. And I remember the NDC picketing McGovern and calling him a sell-out the day Matt Troy endorsed him last summer.

At the most basic human level, the reformer leaders behaved like parodies of hacks, while the new regulars like Crangle and Troy displayed street smarts, wit, and a better sense of the larger reality. I didn’t always think this, but living with people for a week is an education: spending 18 tense hours a day with politicians breaks down all the barriers of role playing and image making. You get to know them like family.

Some memories of reformers in action.

During one of the early caucuses the super-pure reformers tried to throw Crangle off the convention’s rules committee. The New York delegation had 10 members on the committee and Crangle was one of them. The excuse for this vindictiveness was that Crangle would not be loyal to McGovern. So each of the other nine delegates to the rules committee stood up and marched to the microphone and promised to be a robot, promised not to vote his or her conscience, promised not to be independent.

“I’ll vote however I’m told to vote by McGovern,” said Bob Dryfoos, whose self-righteousness would later drive Jimmy Breslin to stomp on his foot.

But Crangle, who is supposed to be a big bad boss, got up and said he would use reason and judgment on the rules committee. He was booed by the new politicians.

At this point someone nominated Ann Hamilton from Suffolk to replace Crangle on the rules committee. When it was pointed out that this would under-represent the males on the committee, the women hissed.

Crangle was finally elected after Matt Troy appealed for reason and reminded the caucus our real goal was to defeat Richard Nixon.

One night a bunch of us were sitting in Troy’s room watching Doug Ireland eat a midnight steak. Suddenly a reformer from the 23rd District delegation walked in with three prostitutes. He offered them around the room. There were no takers. The next morning this same reformer was up in the caucus denouncing sexism and male chauvinism.

Kathy Welch was a 24-year-old McGovern delegate from Ohio. When the platform committee convened, she jumped up and said youth was an “oppressed minority,” and she wanted to be a vice-chairman of the platform committee. She was quickly given the title. And so on Tuesday night, as an oppressed youth, she was given a chance to speak on national television. She spoke against the minority plank for equal rights for homosexuals. And Kathy Welch gave the most rotten, bigoted speech of the whole convention, talking about “child molesting” and other irrelevant horrors…

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]