Tag Archives: Bobby Kennedy

Bobby-Barack: After 40 Years, It’s “Our Moment” Again

For those of us that have been inspired by the idealism of Bobby Kennedy, who died when I was a little boy, this morning has been somewhat emotional. I woke up this morning listening to news that Barack Obama was officially the democratic nominee and that Hillary had finally thrown in the towel (at least she will come this friday or saturday). The next story on the news featured an interview with Ted Sorensen–Kennedy’s old speechwriter–, who reminisced about the the Kennedy brothers and RFK’s presidential campaign which ended forty years ago today.

Sorensen charted Bobby Kennedy’s evolution during the five year period following JFK’s death in 1963. That growth and where his thinking culminated during spring 1968 is what makes Bobby nostalgia so resonant and salient after 40 years.  Although I have only faint memories, that spring was a moment of idealistic potential: to end the war and heal dramatics drifts in the body politic.

Now flash forward to the now, to what Obama defines as “our moment.” The country stands at the brink of recapturing the lost spirit of Bobby Kennedy; the brink of making hopes and dreams that he embodied, into a reality under Barack Obama. Naming Caroline Kennedy to the VEEP search committee is more than a little symbolic. Caroline can help these disembodied hopes and dreams to materialize in a presidential ticket that stands committed to implementing the dreams of her uncle and father. 

I’m not calling for a return to the ’60s. And granted, the times are quite different and differences between the two men are myriad, but what stands out this morning is that the emotions evoked in the name of each man, and the ideas they embody, are strikingly similar.

Wow. This IS quite a moment.  Let’s see.

Waiting for Barack… A Question for Progressives

Recently, a spate of news articles and books about the bankruptcy of the conservative republican revolution brought to light the specter of a new 21st century brand of progressive politics.  This brand both celebrates the netroots and harkens back to Bobby Kennedy (in a non Clintonian way) and the anti war movement of 1968.  In terms of leading figures, Barack Obama is the 2008 version of Bobby Kennedy (in a non Clintonian way).

Perhaps, but here are 3 potential counter-factuals, coalescing around the proposition that progressives simply may be waiting for Obama ( the idea of a transformative leader), who may never come, and if he elected, this “great man” approach to political history may not suffice… 

1) The anti war movement in 2008 looks nothing like the anti war movement in 1968. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to point to much of a real anti war movement at all outside the progressive blogosphere, and even there it has been overrun by pro-obama coverage.  By contrast, in ’68, Eugene McCarthy and then RFK rode the crest of the anti-war wave to incredible popular support; in 2008 there has been little wave to ride.

Consider the fact that last week was the 40th anniversary of the Catonsville 9.  Back in May, 1968, Dan and Phil Berrigan (and 7 several notable others) stormed into the Catonsville, MD., draft office, walked behind the counter, took draft records, walked out back and set them ablaze in the parking lot.  The ensuing case caught the public’s attention like few symbolic acts have since.  Simply unfathomable to imagine a similar spectacle in 2008.  The Camp Casey protest in Crawford Texas dissipated for want of public attention; the public seems uninterested in the amazing story Pat Tillman’s mom is telling about the cover-up of his friendly fire death, and the public is simply turning away from Iraq war stories conveyed in books, news articles and even movies.  In ’68 anger turned to social mobilization. In ’08 it turns to discrete blogging parties.

This ennui towards the war is hardly the stuff of a successful progressive movement.  Progressives seem to be saying, let’s hold our breath for Obama, and all will be well…

2) George W Bush has committed multiple offenses against the US Constitution and the American people, and yet, hardly a whimper.  Calls for impeachment and with it the archiving of evidence for the historical record have long ago been quieted by the MSM and Democratic leadership, but few on the left are insistently protesting this administration’s blatant abuses of power.   Wait for Obama, the left seems to be saying, and all will be well…

3) Barack Obama is in a statistical dead heat, more or less, against John McCain.  Progressives have certainly conributed money to his campaign, and have helped with pro-Barack voter registration around the country, but the question remains… what happens to progressives, if Obama loses?

what happens to the anti-war movement then?

what about mitigating the blatant abuses of executive power, then?

what if the left is simply waiting for Obama, and he never comes, or he comes, and it is not enuf?

Indiana Primary– a final ’08/’68 (Barack/Bobby) comparison

Forty years after Bobby Kennedy soothed an Indiana crowd the evening of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, Indiana voters once again are in the democratic primary limelight.  With 160,000 new registrations, Hoosiers are taking seriously their role in deciding the nomination fight.

In 1968, Governor Brannigan was the stand in for Hubert Humphrey.  Clinton is the Brannigan/Humphrey hawk, of this race.  Obama is the Bobby Kennedy–dove.

But my have things changed.  Through the looking glass even.  In 08, Clinton has made a caricature of the Humphrey, a reluctant hawk, by cheerfully threatening to obliterate Iran, and by having her supporters attest to her cojones and obama’s by comparison (the latest cojone comment by james carville). nobody dared comment on Bobby Kennedy’s cojones, or if they did, it didn’t rate press attention. 

Also, go back to the kennedy speech the night of King’s death. He talked about the racial divide in America in healing terms.  Once again, Obama’s recent speeches and his candidacy itself speaks to the country in the same healing tones.  Regretfully, his opponents seeks to exacerbate old wounds and exploit fear.

Would be great to see Indiana once again stamping its no-nonsense anti-war (and anti cojone counting), racial healing  imprimatur upon the national consciousness.