Freshman Senators – class of 1963. In what would go down in history as a momentous year, the new crop of Senators, flush from victories during the off-season election were a particularly interesting bunch. not the least being Senator George McGovern (D- South Dakota) who would not only be a very vocal opponent to our policies in Vietnam, but would also make a brief nomination run for the White House in 1968 (replacing an assassinated Robert F. Kennedy) and making an unsuccessful run in 1972.
At one point, the news anchor wonders which of this class of 12 new Senators would still be on Capitol Hill come the year 2000 – truths to tell, only one – Daniel Inouye of Hawaii would be the last one standing from this freshman group.
Some of the Senators didn’t last long – Sen. George Mechem would be voted out in November of 1964 (he was his own appointment at the death of Senator Dionisio Chavez in 1962). Others lasted until 1981; Birch Bayh, George McGovern and Abraham Ribicoff, casualties of the Reagan years.
It’s a fascinating look at where this class of Freshman Senators would wind up in the context of history. How the political landscape changed during their tenures and what their contributions were in the midst of all that.
What’s interesting too, is how the nature of Politics has changed over the 53 years since this broadcast, how the parties themselves have undergone a transformation. It was Senator Abraham Ribicoff who publicly called out Chicago Mayor Richard Daley during the tumultuous Democratic Convention in 1968, assailing what he called “Gestapo Tactics” on the parts of the Chicago Police. It was Daniel Inouye who would serve on the Watergate Committee, and then go on to chair a special committee investigating the Iran-Contra Affair. The nature of politics in the decades since they were Freshmen went to places no one had considered in 1963.
But at the time of this broadcast, it was all still very new, and the new faces beamed with optimism as it was, after all, still the New Frontier.
Here is that broadcast from the CBS News Special, Meet The New Senators, from February 24, 1963.