Thomas J Knock describes George McGovern’s political career as ‘a life-long lover’s quarrel with his country’. It’s a beautiful summation. The South Dakota senator and disastrous presidential candidate was a liberal from the conservative heartlands – a politician who consistently disagreed with the people he sought to represent. That he was totally out of step with them on almost every national issue is beyond doubt: he didn’t even carry his own state when he ran for the White House in 1972. McGovern was dubbed the candidate of ‘amnesty, abortion, and acid’ – and those were the words of his own running mate. Yet South Dakota kept on electing him to the Senate, once by a landslide. Why?