I heard some talk yesterday about how this election is shaping up similar to 1968. Someone said Hillary is like Hubert Humphrey (the entrenched party favorite, long time insider), that Obama and Edwards are like Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy (you decide who is who). Those are the so-called top-tier Democrats. In the lower tier, we have, among others, the fearless Dennis Kucinich who always knows where he stands & is therefore released from trying to play the polls. We don't hear much about the lower-tier Dems; their messages are sounds of silence in the media.
All of this talk of 1968 has me remembering: Eugene McCarthy had done well in the early primaries. Bobby was being pressured to run, but wouldn't commit. Then LBJ announced he would not seek re-election, and I went downtown to volunteer at a make-shift RFK campaign office that sprang up overnight. He galvanized people like no one I have ever seen. The organizers held seminars for us; they wanted to make sure every volunteer knew where Bobby stood on the issues, so that we could represent him well. They arranged media blitzes & voter registration drives & amassed lists of people who would need to be prodded & even physically taken to the polls to vote in the primaries. We lowly volunteers handed out a lot of brochures, campaign buttons & other promo items. We made industrial-strength coffee by the gallon & provided donuts & cookies at public gatherings. We went to supermarkets & other public places, set up little tables with candidate info & attempted to engage with people about Bobby. I reasoned with republicans and democrats alike, pointing out where RFK differed from others & why his philosophy was better. We were told to never make personal attacks, to stick to the issues -- if anyone tried to get personal, we were to refer them to the campaign office people. It was a real grass-roots eye-opening experience for a skinny 16-yr old who wore too much make-up & ironed her hair.
The night Bobby died, June 5, 1968, I had stayed up late to follow the important California primaries. Then I stayed up some more to hear Bobby's victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. I remember being elated, but so tired, I could hardly keep my eyes open. As soon as he waved goodbye to the crowd, I flipped the TV off & trudged to bed. Early the next morning, my Dad tip-toed softly into my bedroom & said, "your guy's dead". I still can't explain how I even knew what he was talking about, but I immediately did know Bobby had been assassinated.
A few days later, I volunteered for McCarthy (I was "Clean for Gene"), but it was an empty effort for me. I was too young to go to the Chicago convention, even though I knew others from the campaign who did go. They went thinking mass protests would derail the Humphrey steamroller machine. They carried signs that said, "Dump the Hump". We did not want another political hack, an LBJ yes-man, to win the nomination. You've all seen the pictures from that convention, the heavy-handed police vs the mostly earnest college kids trying to make their voices heard.
End result: we got Hubert H. Humphrey, who ran a carefully crafted, but ultimately losing campaign. One of the key issues was his failure to differ from LBJ on continuing the Vietnam war. Oh sure, he wanted to do things differently, but he still maintained the goal of stopping communism in SE Asia, which meant the war would continue. HHH lost to Nixon. Vietnam drug on until 1975, eventually costing over 58,000 American lives & uncounted millions of Vietnamese deaths. You know the rest of the story.
Today, I am recognizing the similarities of 2008 to 1968. Are you? I'm afraid Hillary is the Humphrey of today, and that her unwillingness to state how & when she will end our military involvement in Iraq, no matter how slickly worded, is a losing position for the Democrats. I'm afraid she is the democratic candidate who will have the toughest fight in the General Election. I'm afraid she will lose, and we will end up with Rudy or Romney, and then heaven help us. I'm also afraid she will win, and we will end up with only a slightly different strategy, still going down the same road to hell. Tell me I'm wrong. Please.
Better yet, tell me if any candidate is speaking to you the way RFK did, with words like, "What's been going on in the U.S. for these last years, the divisions, the violence, the disenchantment, the war, that must end. We are a great country, a selfless country, a compassionate country & now we must work together. That is the basis of my candidacy."
********** Enigma of Watergate Summer has a couple of inspirational posts up right now: "Mainstream Media" has another RFK video & asks us why the media isn't covering important issues & what we can do about it. Also see "Catching Light" with a Simon-Garfunkel video that captures Dennis Kucinich (in the clearing stands a boxer ....)