Defeated by Nixon, McGovern returned to the Senate and pressed there to end the Vietnam war while championing agriculture, anti-hunger and food stamp programs in the United States and food programs abroad. He won re-election to the Senate in 1974, by which point he could make wry jokes about his presidential defeat.
“For many years, I wanted to run for the presidency in the worst possible way — and last year, I sure did,” he told a formal press dinner in Washington.
After losing his bid for a fourth Senate term in the 1980 Republican landslide that made Ronald Reagan president, McGovern went on to teach and lecture at universities, and found a liberal political action committee. He made a longshot bid in the 1984 presidential race with a call to end U.S. military involvement in Lebanon and Central America and open arms talks with the Soviets. Former Vice President Walter Mondale won the Democratic nomination and went on to lose to President Ronald Reagan by an even bigger margin in electoral votes than had McGovern to Nixon.
He talked of running a final time for president in 1992, but decided it was time for somebody younger and with fewer political scars.
After his career in office ended, McGovern served as U.S. ambassador to the Rome-based United Nation’s food agencies from 1998 to 2001 and spent his later years working to feed needy children around the world. He and former Republican Sen. Bob Dole collaborated to create an international food for education and child nutrition program, for which they shared the 2008 World Food Prize.
Clinton and his wife, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said in a statement yesterday that while McGovern was “a tireless advocate for human rights and dignity,” his greatest passion was helping feed the hungry.
“The programs he created helped feed millions of people, including food stamps in the 1960s and the international school feeding program in the 90’s, both of which he co-sponsored with Senator Bob Dole,” they said, adding, “We must continue to draw inspiration from his example and build the world he fought for.”