As of this writing, Barack Obama is visiting the valley of my home state of Oregon a little early to make sure he’ll get votes here when the primary occurs on May 20. Based on the lines that formed from here to China just for the Salem, Ore., town hall Q&A, he probably has it all wrapped up in my home state.
But does he really? Even though I wasn’t born yet in 1968, the approaching 40th anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s profound run for president then (and visit to the valley of Oregon just a month and a half before his assassination after winning the California primary) has fascinated me for a while along with the connective strings to Obama’s run.
It’s worth noting that Robert Kennedy had tremendous crowds on par with Obama’s here in Oregon. Yet, Kennedy ultimately lost in the Oregon primary for reasons that might need a re-examination all these years later. With a lot more attention on his presidential run and assassination on its 40th anniversary, many are saying he surprisingly may not have won the Democratic nomination.
There are differences here with Obama — just to make sure here history isn’t repeating itself. In the scenario with the Democrats now, Hillary Clinton might be considered the equivalent of Robert Kennedy, what with her being behind Obama in delegate counts. With all the mythology behind Kennedy’s presidential run, a lot of younger generations who haven’t studied the details probably assume that there was a fast-forward streak in getting Kennedy into the White House and that he was way ahead in delegate numbers. The truth is that he was way behind current vice president at the time, Hubert Humphrey — even after winning the California primary the night he was shot and killed in Los Angeles.
At least Kennedy had a long track record of getting big deals done as attorney general during his brother’s presidency and a bit beyond. The irony is that Obama hasn’t been tested, yet he is still the favorite to get the nomination despite a few recent controversies (e.g., the Reverend Jeremiah Wright scandal) that he’ll likely overcome.
Obama and Kennedy eerily have the same goals in mind, too: Assuaging those who oppose an unpopular war, helping the poor in general (Kennedy went for the urban neighborhoods), and being overall against giving breaks to big business. In 1968, those who were up on things knew that Robert Kennedy could have potentially been a force to be reckoned with due to his desire to continue his brother’s policies… and expanding them tenfold. Perhaps time has forgotten just how controversial Robert Kennedy’s stance was to those who wanted a status quo here in America.
With Obama, it may not be much different.
Capturing the political imagination in Oregon…and seemingly failing…
When I look back and see pictures of Robert Kennedy visiting the downtown area of my hometown of Salem, Oregon, on April 18, 1968. It makes me wish I could have been present in the world already then and experienced a piece of history. The crowds were tremendous when you don’t see that many people in one place often here, except maybe for the Oregon State Fair.
By that time, though, Kennedy was exhausted from touring around the country and trying to convince Oregonians that he was the one to vote for in the primary in a month. This wasn’t his only trip here, either. He came through several times (later on a train tour) on up to the time of the primary. But it makes me wonder what was going through the minds of those people in the audience who look absolutely thrilled that Kennedy was there and running for the presidency.
Even inside stories about Kennedy’s own concern for his safety due to his controversial policies makes you think twice about what the American people thought about the man. With the country already about to break apart at its seams during this era, a lot of Americans (and Oregonians) may have just thought it would be too risky to have another Kennedy in the White House. It has to be argued that had Robert Kennedy not been killed in Los Angeles that fateful night of June 5, 1968, then the chances are high he could have been assassinated later as president. While Oregon was generally more of a Republican state in those days, his loss in Oregon to Humphrey seems to indicate that enough people were just afraid, despite badly wanting the policies Kennedy promoted.
Of course, this makes those who want the same policies today (at least in giving equality to those who deserve the American Dream) probably have a bit of the same concern in Obama. He’s managed to ignite the passions of people who, like me, weren’t even born when Kennedy was running for President. However, I understand the fate of history — and I hope you and everybody who’s decided to support Obama have taken the time to understand it and put everything in context.
Ever since the 1960s, this country has been on a fast-track to keep a status quo as corporations take over and not only garner major profits but also make quality worse in everything. The economic system, too, is probably irreparable in giving complete fairness to everybody, although a president who wants economic fairness can do a little to give the poor a few extra dollars in their pockets.
Obama may just be Kennedy Part Two in a time when those who oppose what Kennedy wanted are still around.
The ultimate result of Obama’s Oregon visit…
I didn’t make the effort to go see Obama (who’s visiting in Portland and then Salem as I write this) due to intense crowds that I’m not crazy being around. And it seems a lot of political town halls can’t guarantee you’ll get in even if you have a ticket. Every seat was booked, though, at the four places Obama will visit in the valley (including Medford on Saturday, March 22). It’ll be interesting to see what the public reactions will be as they hopefully start questioning Obama about his policies rather than obsessing over his association with Rev. Wright.
What people need to start paying attention to is that he’s on the same track Robert Kennedy was on 40 years ago. And that means more controversy than anybody can probably imagine in a time when big business is used to keeping things the same during the Bush Administration. What they’d do keep it that way is something we shouldn’t even think about, yet can’t keep out of our minds completely. There isn’t any doubt that it was more than Sirhan Sirhan behind Robert Kennedy’s death, particularly when you see the profoundly broad picture of what he wanted to do and would have stopped at nothing to do it had he won the White House. Thankfully, Obama understands the threats (with double the risks unfortunately, because of his race) and has taken on a lot of protection as the result.
If Obama wins the Oregon primary on May 20 (and I believe he will), then it’s probably the result of history being forgotten. People want a fresh start, and maybe it’s workable as Obama has a wall of security around him with hopefully trustworthy people in the inner circle (that Kennedy may not have had the night he died).