Monday, January 28, 2024

Visions of a Promised Land

Robert F. Kennedy's widow's has this to say of Barack Obama:
"...I think he feels it. He feels it just like Bobby did,” Mrs. Kennedy said in an interview that day, comparing her late husband’s quest for social justice to Mr. Obama’s. “He has the passion in his heart. He’s not selling you. It’s just him..."
The words were spoken on the occasion of what would've been Robert Kennedy's 80th birthday, an occasion when Mrs. Kennedy introduced Senator Obama as "our next president."

This week, several other member of the Kennedy family are adding their uniquely influential voices to the chorus of those who think that Barack Obama at least should be our next President--not least among them the surviving daughter of John F. Kennedy and the surviving brother of RFK and JFK, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachussets.

This is a remarkable development in may ways. Most immediately seized upon in the media is how devastating a censure this endorsement is to Mr. Obama's principal rival, the virtual co-presidency of Bill and Hillary Clinton. While this aspect of the announcement is undeniable (the catalyst for Senator Kennedy's decision, according to unamed sources, was specifically the Clintons' recent decent into race politics and Karl Rove-like distortions), it is by no means the most significant. Certainly, there is a tactical advantage to being embraced by the one political family more central to the Democratic Party than The Clintons....but there's a lot more on the table than that.

Somewhat more important, but by no means tantamount, is the strategic advantage this announcement confers in the matter of the so-called "Super Delegates." For those who have heard the phrase but not it's definition, Super Delegates are Democratic members of Congress, members of the Democratic National Convention, and former holders of high office (yes, Bill Clinton is a Super Delegate) who are entitled to vote in the Democratic National Convention, but not bound to honor the wishes of any state's voters--or, in fact, any voters at all.

To date, Hillary Clinton has held a hundred delegate lead over Barack Obama (despite the fact that Senator Obama has acquired a greater count of delegates won in primaries and caucuses). This lead is based on the fact that, even though Super Delegates are not called upon to formalize their choices until the convention, they are free to make them public in advance. In other words, every single one of the super delegates who has declared in advance for Hillary Clinton has plenty of opportunity to change their minds....and the 700 or so supers that have yet to declare a preference now have a lot more to think about.

The real significance of the endorsement goes beyond either the tactics or the strategy of securing the Democratic Presidential nomination. The real significance goes beyond the "how" of U.S. presidential politics, into the all-important "why". The Clintons are masters of the "how". Their campaign is built upon it. But when it comes to *why* Hillary Clinton wants to be President, or why the American People should choose her as such, the questions become considerably harder to answer.

The Kennedy endorsement brings into even sharper focus the many comparisions that have been made between Senator Obama and Robert Kennedy, John Kennedy....and, inevitably, Martin Luther King. Neither King nor the Kennedy brothers lived long enough to witness the "promised Land" that Dr. King spoke of in the speech he made the day before he too was struck down by an assassin's bullet.....nor have any other Americans. The promised vision of a more just and more honorable America that movitated the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements of The Sixties has been lost for decades. When Dr. King spoke of a "promised land" he was analogizing himself to Moses, who--having led his people out of bondage, wandered with them for forty years in wilderness before his people--not he--were finally permitted to enter the promised land.

And now, America has wandered for forty years in a wilderness of our own making--a barren wasteland of violence, brutality, and injustice. When Barack Obama speaks of healing this country's divisions and injustices, he speaks to a higher purpose than the mere mechanics of governance and the mere tactics of winning elections--he speaks to finally winning past the battles the Clintons are so good at fighting, but that ultimately still cripple this country. Far more than anyone, the Kennedys are the stewards of the dream that John F. Kennedy's presidency once seem to herald. As much as Bill Clinton tried to build upon the symbolism of his youthful meeting with Kennedy, and as much good as he did accomplish in his presidency, he and his wife are not the successors to the stewardship of that dream.

The Kennedys feel that torch is appropriately passed to Barack Obama. My feeling is that they are correct. All that remains now is for Americans to decide they no longer wish to wander in the wilderness.



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