The Original Obama: RFK

RFK on the campaign trail

Bobby Kennedy campaigns in Indianapolis during May of 1968, with various aides and friends, including (behind and left of Kennedy) former prizefighter Tony Zale and (right of Kennedy) N.F.L. stars Lamar Lundy, Rosey Grier, and Deacon Jones

Obama is being touted as the antidote to the almost eight years of continued disaster under George “Dubya” Bush. He has compared himself to JFK in the sense that he’s an outsider seeking the Oval Office. JFK was an Irish Catholic, and Obama is obviously a black man, two groups that haven’t necessarily dominated the Presidency of the USA. Bill Clinton was described as “America’s first black President” but he was more of a small town boy done good who moved his party to the centre at the expense of the traditional leftwing backers of the Democratic Party.

Looking back a bit further and we see the proto-Obama in JFK’s brother, RFK. The younger Kennedy returned to politics not too long after the assassination of his brother, but was a different man. Whereas JFK was a Cold Warrior and a centrist politically, RFK was much more of a liberal and much more in tune with the social situation prevailing in the USA during that era. Much had changed from 1963 to 1968, and RFK not only was aware of the changes but was able to ride that tide of change. The commonality between RFK and Obama stand on two items: the notion of “hope” and their appeal to black voters.

As Americans decide which candidate will succeed Dubya and as the world cheers Obama on to spite American Republicans, we’re left to wonder if Obama really has the ability to enact change like he promises. RFK was tragically assassinated during his run for the Oval Office while on campaign in California where he was promoting change.

Thurston Clarke takes a look back (and provides several excellent photos) at that momentous time in: The Last Good Campaign.

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