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Time Capsule: Spock Stumps with Sanders in Vermont

Benjamin Spock, the nation’s most famous pediatrician and the People’s Party candidate for president, carried his antiwar message to students at Vermont’s Bennington College in September of 1972.

The 69-year-old Spock, who had spoken on hundreds of college campuses in the late sixties and early seventies, told a decent-sized audience in Bennington’s Tishman Hall that the injustices and inhumanity perpetrated by the United States in Vietnam had led him to begin speaking out against other injustices in American society.

The war in Southeast Asia had also radicalized him, he said, and led him directly into the ranks of the fledgling People’s Party — a loose coalition of left-wing parties anchored by California’s ballot-qualified Peace & Freedom Party.

Joined on the stage that evening by a young Bernie Sanders, the Liberty Union Party’s candidate for governor, and by radical lawyer and anti-establishmentarian Peter Diamondstone, who was running for attorney general, Spock told the crowd that as a 21-year-old he had voted for Republican Calvin Coolidge in 1924.

In his own defense, the famous baby doctor explained that he had cast that ballot while acting on the advice of his father, a retired railroad attorney.

Largely because of his affection for President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression, Spock later became a lifelong Democrat — at least until the late 1960s. He had even gone “all the way with LBJ” in 1964.

“I ended up a New Deal Democrat and would have been a liberal today if it hadn’t been for Vietnam,” he said.

Dressed in his customary three-piece suit with an ostentatious gold watch dangling across the front of his vest, the famous baby doctor reminded the audience that he had been indicted four years earlier along with four others, including the Reverend William Sloan Coffin, Jr., the nationally-renowned chaplain of Yale University, and Marcus Raskin of the Institute for Policy Studies — the so-called “Boston Five” — for allegedly conspiring to aid, abet, and counsel resistance to the draft.

“We’ve been poisoning crops, destroying dwellings, putting civilians in concentration camps — all violations of the Geneva Convention,” he said, “and it still angers me to think that my government tried to put me in jail for protesting this dirtiest of all wars.”

Enjoying Secret Service protection from the same government that tried to imprison him only four years earlier, Dr. Spock appeared on the ballot in ten states that autumn, garnering nearly 79,000 votes nationally, including more than 1,000 votes in the sparsely-populated Green Mountain State.

About Post Author

Darcy G. Richardson

8 Comments

  1. Robert Milnes Robert Milnes February 12, 2022

    Darcy,
    Do you have definitive information as to whether Dr. Spock (deceased) was jewish?

  2. Darcy G Richardson Darcy G Richardson February 13, 2022

    Hi Bob,

    It’s good to hear from you, but what difference does it make? One of the closest people in my life these days is half-Jewish and half Southern Baptist redneck. Seriously.

    Can’t we all just get along?

    Dr. Spock, arguably the country’s most influential pediatrician and a man who loved his country deeply, didn’t adhere to any particular religion, but he firmly believed in the “Golden Rule”—treating others the way you want to be treated.

    That, in a nutshell, is the basis of most, if not all, organized religions, and it’s certainly true of virtually every spiritual value since the beginning of time. I think you would agree with that.

    In any case, Benjamin Spock was raised in a relatively strict, conservative Republican household, but he continually moved to the left as he came of age and continued along that merry path until his death in 1998.

    Dr. Spock’s 1972 candidacy, moreover, was pretty cool, but the timing wasn’t quite right. Running against a dove like George McGovern that year didn’t prove to be too electorally fruitful.

    My only regret was that the famous baby doctor didn’t mount his quixotic presidential candidacy four years earlier when the antiwar movement was briefly left without a viable candidate following Bobby Kennedy’s assassination and insurgent Eugene McCarthy’s overwhelming defeat at the tumultuous 1968 Democratic national convention in Chicago.

    If Dr. Spock ran that year, he probably would’ve garnered at least a half million votes, if not more.

    Given the choice of voting for Richard Nixon, Vice President Hubert Humphrey or segregationist George Wallace, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of antiwar voters — people like my own parents — stayed home on Election Day.

  3. Darcy G Richardson Darcy G Richardson February 13, 2022

    Except for 1968, my parents, both of whom were lifelong Democrats (my dad died in 2003, but my mother’s still going strong at 93) voted in every presidential election from the time they were of voting age, casting ballots for Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956 and for JFK in 1960, but — believe it or not — unlike Spock, refused to go “All the Way with LBJ” and proudly voted for Barry Goldwater in 1964.

  4. Darcy G Richardson Darcy G Richardson February 13, 2022

    Goldwater had a lot of interesting things to say about America’s involvement in Southeast Asia that year.

  5. Robert Milnes Robert Milnes February 13, 2022

    Hey Darcy,
    I have been trying to contact you for quite some time. Unfortunately I am not much of a Facebook person. We are Friends but I rarely participate in Facebook.
    Are you aware of this?
    I would like to discuss with you my strategy for a non democrat or republican to win the next Presidential election.
    You and Jo Jorgensen are my first choice for the ticket.
    You would have to join the Geeen party.
    I am confident of winning.
    Might you be interested?
    If so, please contact me asap. The sooner the better.
    I think a reply comment right here would probably be ok.

  6. NewFederalist NewFederalist February 13, 2022

    Hi Darcy! Happy to hear your mom is still plugging along at 93! I assume she is still in Pennsylvania.

  7. Jared Jared February 13, 2022

    “Let us abolish all laws which attempt to impose a particular brand of morality or ‘right’ on people.”

    Unless it’s the socially progressive, democratic socialist brand of morality Sanders subscribes to. Then s’all good. Legislate away.

  8. Gene Berkman Gene Berkman February 16, 2022

    Benjamin Spock was on the ballot in ten states and received a little over 78,000 votes, coming in 4th place, behind Rep. John Schmitz, the American Party candidate., who received alittle more than 1,100,000 votes.

    Dr Spock received more than 55,000 votes in California as the candidate of the Peace & Freedom Party. He visited Los Angeles County for a campaign stop, and celebrated his 69th birthday in Venice, at a party organized by the local office of the Peace & Freedom Party. I was the bartender at his 69th birthday party, and the Spock birthday party was the biggest event for the PFP in Los Angeles in1972.

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