RFK - 40 Years Later [UPDATED]
Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated 40 years ago today, on the evening of his triumph in the California Democratic Primary.
See the tribute to RFK (with several links) by Irish Elk.
The Fidelis blog also has a post remembering RFK, which links to this Paul Kengor piece about the relationship between then-Governor Reagan (who also passed away on this date, 4 years ago) and Senator Kennedy.
UPDATE (6 June 2008)
Mark Stricherz writes on "RFK and the Death of the New American Center" at InsideCatholic:
... In the country at that time, life for a middle-class, Catholic couple was almost idyllic. My father could support his family, with the help of my mom’s earnings, on one income. Blacks now enjoyed full civil rights. Getting a divorce generally was difficult and time-consuming; after all, in most cases kids were involved. The share of poor people dropped from more than one-fifth to a little more than one-tenth. Unborn infants, in the vast majority of states, still enjoyed legal protection. Enacting universl health care, in whatever form, seemed possible.
Kennedy was a champion of a new American center, not the left or right. He was from a younger generation than Hubert Humphrey or Lyndon Johnson. He obviously was not a man of the new right, as were Goldwater or Reagan, but he also wasn’t a man of the new left, as were McCarthy and the young campus-based activists.
Kennedy talked about liberty, high taxes, and individual rights, but he also talked about equality, social justice, sacrifice, and the common good... His vision of the common good rested more on the Judeo-Christian cultural heritage and Catholic social teaching than Enlightenment ideologies of the left and right...
When RFK was shot 40 years ago today, the new American center never aborned. The results have been tragic. A skilled wage earner can no longer support his family . Married couples with children can get divorced for no reason. The percentage of poor people has stayed the same. Unborn children lost their legal rights.
[Read the whole thing]
UPDATE #2 (7 June 2008)
Victor Morton makes a fairly compelling dissent to Stricherz' piece:
... What is the basis for "he as a man of the center recognized that government and civil society should champion individuals and families," other than hope. In that excerpt Kennedy does not even mention family. He does use the word "family" elsewhere in the speech, but not in that context, and it's overwhelmed by his individualism.(emphasis added)
Indeed, the very excerpt you choose is as radically individualist a statement as you'll ever get. Apart from the phrase "child of God," and it's a semantic redundancy, you can almost imagine Justice Kennedy writing it in Casey. He says "all groups ... exist for [the individual man's] benefit," and that "the supreme goal" must be "the enlargement of liberty" ... not for the family or the church or any other group, mind you, but for "individual human beings." No doubt about it -- this is radical individualism all the way down, the kind that sees the family and even God as oppressive denial (and correctly so, given their premises). RFK would have been swept along with, or swept over by, the counterculture as was every other Democrat of his generation who didn't become a Republican.
In fact, everything you say about Robert Kennedy, circa 1967-68, was just as true of Edward Kennedy in the same period. And we don't need to engage in counterfactual speculation to know how that brother came out (or frankly any of the other Kennedys). There is no rational reason (as opposed to a laudable hope) that things would have come out differently in RFK's case.
And Donald McClarey adds:
... When anti-Communism was popular he worked with Joe McCarthy in the Fifties.(emphasis added)
As Attorney General under brother John he authorized bugging of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1961. He supported the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba. He supported the death penalty.
By 1968 he had reversed himself on almost all of his prior positions and transformed himself into a proto-McGovern.
If he had lived, I suspect he would merely have been a more slender and more eloquent version of Teddy Kennedy.
Of course, we'll never know. One aspect of Jack and Bobby Kennedy's lives, as well as the life of Dr. King, being snuffed out in their primes is that everyone can retrospectively ascribe all their hopes and dreams and aspirations and ideologies to those men without having to account for how changing times and circumstances and age might have impacted their views.
Tragically, we'll never know for sure. But I suspect that Victor and Don may be correct.