Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sounds of Silence

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 ....)

********** And don't let the media also silence news about Pakistan: Bhutto arrested, but vows to go ahead with protest rallies today, 11/9/07. Follow the news ...


enigma4ever said...

thanks for the hat tip ....I guess we are slowly becoming the Media that we want aren't we?

Great amazing that we all remember him and that year like it was yesterday.....I miss him..always....

we need RFK's spirit these days like never before....a moral compass in a chaotic dark time...


azgoddess said...

been there - to watergate - thanks

and great to read about your early on political goings-on

ever think of running for office yourself?

dada said...

d.k. - a very synchronistic blog today after Dennis Kucinich's appearance on "Democracy Now!" this morning. Everything Kucinich said made perfect sense which is why, I suppose, I said to Mrs. dada afterwards, "There's no way Kucinich would even be allowed to make it to the nomination because he is so antithetical to the paradigm of the "powers that be," referencing in the same sentence 1968 and B. Kennedy.

While I had been a "Clean for Gene" person to that point, I knew Kennedy was the likely candidate. But he was someone I could really throw my support to, so venemous was my attitude toward Tricky Dick.

So if my cynicism was conceived nearly 5 years earlier with the death of his brother, it was birthed that evening in June, 1968 via cesarean section, wrenched from the body of my naivety of all I was taught this country was. The lie was exposed and my faith assassinated that night, snuffed out as rapidly as Bobby's life.

Hence, I found this blog particularly apropos, especially today. I see Kucinich more akin to Bobby. Edwards and Obama don't have the metal to stand in the shadow of Kennedy.

So Nixon came along to end the war. After nearly four years and little/no progress, it was revealed he'd need another four years to do it. Sounds a lot like the "first tier" of democratic candidates today, huh?

I enjoyed reading of your early political experience and of how you learned the next morning what had happened the night before. I honestly can't be totally sure, but I THINK I was awake for the events that happened immediately after B.K.'s victory speech. I was living in the Bay Area at the time.

Thanks. Nice post!

D.K. Raed said...

Enigma: it's like 40-yrs went zooming by at the speed of light!

AZ: in the immortal words of Randi Rhodes (air america), "I can't run for political office, because unfortunately, I've had a life!" ... besides, I don't think I could take the ego-blow of only garnering one vote (my own).

D.K. Raed said...

Dada: I really don't know who's more RFKish, Obama-Edwards-Kucinich, they all seem to manifest different aspects of him. But yeah ... I had been thinking of Bobby, then saw Enigma's RFK video, heard someone on TV talking about 1968, and now it seems you got the same vibe. Must be something about Kucinich. I'm sorry I missed him on Democracy Now.

The footage of Bobby's assassination has been shown so much over the yrs, no wonder you can't recall if you saw it that original night, or not. At the time, I felt guilty in the way only an irrational hormonal teenager can, that maybe if I'd stayed up, it wouldn't have happened.

oh, that trickster dickster: 1968 = "anyone who can't win the war in 4-yrs doesn't deserve another term"; 1972 = "I've got a secret plan to end the war" (translate, we're secretly bombing Cambodia & Laos). what a guy.

enigma4ever said...

I love this post and yes, i am so in agreement with you and dada i sat here nodding my neck and thinking that is what it all was and i was young, but i remember mlk 's death and rfk 's death like it was yesterday and summer of 68 changed me forever and i was only eight (not a normal 8 year old..)

Dada i loved what you wrote- that was dk i think i am with you...i think this fall there have been Rfk moments- and those 3 have given us them...but not one has the it factor totally...sadly..but the main thing is that we all are looking for it...

Nixon was indeed evil...very..and I knew it and it is funny now in hindsight that it still imprints on me and even is why i birthed Watergate Summer......because that same kind of absolute anger just drove me...we need CHANGE so bad..and yes, in many ways there is anger and angst and rage here....seething nationwide and I keep wondering what will ignite the tinderbox....and to be honest we can not take another katrina moment or another war...i think people have had it.....totally...

but I think people are smart enough that they are looking for a hero...a change....or a chance to have either right now...but they are tired and disillusioned....more than anyone knows..

D.K. Raed said...

so Enigma, I think we are agreed: no RFK moments from Biden, Richardson, Dodd or Hillary (did I forget anyone?)! Yes, Nixon was so evil, even an 8-yr old (especially a precocious 8-yr old) saw through his "republican cloth coat". I never thought I'd see another president that bad. We see today what happens when the president is appointed, NOT elected, although it's true that was only possible because the popular vote was so close, which comes back to US, we the people.

I sure hope we get that Watergate Summer soon, anytime of year will do. I think the tinderbox is ignited, it's just still a bit waterlogged & smoldering. I'm hoping it's true that the hottest fires are fed by fuel at the core first, before spreading to be outwardly visible. Now, funny you should mention "heroes" -- that was the theme on Edwards' site today!

Spadoman said...

Mrs. Spadoman and I both worked, as children, for the Richard Daley Machine in Chicago. My Mom was an election judge, as a Democrat. Her Dad and mine were union workers. Her best friend's Dad was Illinois Supreme Court head justice Daniel Ward.

In 1968, I got drafted. I was standing by, in a large field at Fort Carson, Colorado, waiting to be deployed to keep the "peace" in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National convention. We were never deployed there, but I was deployed to Vietnam in February of 1969. I was there in the worst year, (most deaths of American soldiers), just before the Paris Peace Talks by another government gangster that needs to be put in jail, Henry Kissinger. The war ended, (the fighting ended over in Vietnam, we're still fighting the war in our hearts, those of us that survived), in 1975.

None of the current candidates could be a pimple on RFK's ass except Kucinich. I saw him on yesterdays Democracy Now. He speaks for me!

I am not saying that it would be a totally great ticket, but I see Edwards/Kucinich as having a shot to win it.

We all know it is sad that the elections are bought and paid for, but since that is the case, Edwards is the closest to reaching my goals of our next President than the other so-called front Runners.

By the way:

2004 Presidential election cost 3.5 Billion

2008 The winner will spend over 500 Million

2012 The winner will spend 1 Billion

Bought and paid for, no doubt, and only 56% of people eligible to vote actually do. Shameful.

Pursey Tuttweiler said...

You know you are right about Hillary and you have the proof, the vote for Iraq without an ounce of contrition and her vote for the Leiberman-Kyl bill to label the IRG a terrorist organization.

Those are my first two talking points when I talk to my fellow Dems. I had the opportunity to state them to two friends and they were surprised to hear this but they took it seriously.

1, She is not willing to apologize for her vote for Iraq
2, She is giving Bush a go-ahead in Iran
3, She went to Baghdad and contrary to what the news was reporting about the violence she was adament in her support of not withdrawing the troops (two years ago Thanksgiving) and spoke out of the McCain playbook
4, She quoted her belief that Saddam had WMDs and that it was time for regime change after the war began
5, She embodies the neo-dem

I think you can persuade your friends and neighbors and whether you work for Kucinich or Edwards, together we can overcome a Hillary nomination.

D.K. Raed said...

Ah Spado, that Richard Daley Machine -- so necessary in 1960, so gestapoish in 1968 when Abe Ribicoff grabbed the mic to tell the delegates what was going on outside in the streets, while Daley mimed cutting his throat. I'm so glad you did not have to go crack heads at the Chicago '68 convention! That 56% voter turnout number IS shameful. You wouldn't believe the excuses I hear on voting day (I slept in late, I forgot, the lines were too long, can't get a babysitter, can't find my car keys or drivers license, can't can't can't). Look at other countries, where they take the whole weekend to vote & their turnout rate is in the 90% range. And then, when WE do vote, there's that sinking feeling that all those electronic votes are being crunched in a, shall we say, deliberate fashion.

Pursey: you have all the talking points about Hillary! Unfortunately, they won't work on MY neighbors who are all deciding between Romney and Ron Paul. Jeeeez, well, at least Rudy is not liked here. See my post above, I linked to your Big Impeachment Party!

Blueheart2 said...

I remember that year so well. I was at a private school in NH where we had no TVs and rarely heard ANY news. It was very calm & peaceful in many good ways... However, I did shake Gene McCarthy's hand as he campaigned in the next town. I was a born Dem and had rallied against Goldwater in '64 (10 years old).
Later, I was really happy that RKF appeared near to winning the nomination, and in my opinion, the election. We only heard about his death the next morning, from the principal, at our Morning Meeting.
I was blown away.

I'd compare Kucinich to McCarthy. I think that Edwards can be inspiring - though I haven't heard him speak personally. Yeah, I guess Hillary could be compared to Humphrey, except that she's a lot smarter.
In '68, I was stunned yet again by the Chicago Convention. Damn!

D.K. Raed said...

Blueheart: For me, it was JFK's assassination that was announced over the school PA system. The PA audio was left tuned to a news station for the next few hrs. We were expected to keep going from class to class & just sit there & listen. No teacher tried to teach, we saw many in the teacher's lounge crying between classes. We all just sat there dazed & then moved on to our next class when the bell sounded. I was in Home Ec when his death was confirmed. We were lined up at our rows of sewing machines, quietly working on some pattern. The girl in front of me slammed her head into her Singer so hard she briefly lost conscienceness. While a few of us were helping her up, some idiot behind me cracked, "I don't care if he died, I am a republican". I often think that was my preview of the growing deep divide that would eventually consume the whole country. In his day, Goldwater scared the crap outta me, but I NEVER would've thought it was a good thing if he'd been murdered in office. It was an unsettled time; we had bad race riots in our school after MLK & Malcom X ...

Jeez, sorry for getting lost back in history there for a moment.

Maybe Kucinich IS like Gene McCarthy inthat he is a true liberal underdog, a man of principle who is not swayed by polls. He is the conscience of the dem party. Oh yeah, Hillary is a LOT smarter than Humphrey, who was not dumb, but such an insufferable party hack, he couldn't sense the winds of change. Thanks for stopping by, Blueheart!