1968: RFK 2016: Sanders?

As we mark the anniversary of the assassination of Robert Kennedy after he won the California primary, I wonder about the times we live through. It’s awfully hard to explain 1968 to people born since then. In some ways the social conditions were similar. America was very polarized and angry. Even more so than today. The passions ran out into violence in the streets. There was a racist running for President in 1968 (Wallace) as there is now. The political battles were being drawn between the “political establishment” candidates who supported that status quo of war and inequality and reformers, just as there are today. For Democrats, Humphrey was the establishment candidate, much as Hillary is now (although in Humphrey’s defense, Hillary has not accomplished nearly as much). Robert Kennedy was the reform candidate, which seemed strange coming from the political powerhouse family.

Kennedy represented a rejection of war as an economic policy, rejected nationalism and advocated “socialist” policies of uplifting the poor. Sanders is no Kennedy, though he has resonated with that historical epoch. The assassination of Kennedy was the coup de grace of the reform movement, and it has never recovered since then. John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were all killed after deciding against war in favor of economic and racial justice. They had a real chance to change the direction of the Country. I am not so certain now that such reforms are possible without the social unrest we saw in 1968. In many ways, the possibilities in 1968 were far better than they seem to be now. I certainly never thought that 1968 was a more promising year than this one…   

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