I have long thought that the assassination of Bobby Kennedy marked the death of the 20th century brand of liberalism. After Vietnam and the loss of America's faith in LBJ, RFK had become the last great hope of a liberalism based on the right of equality for all, communitarian compassion and a foreign policy that was pragmatic yet strongly informed by human rights ideals. And with Bobby, especially the person that Bobby had become by 1968 (transformed to a great degree by the Civil Rights Movement, his brother's death and the horrors of the Vietnam War), that liberalism came from a person of passion, depth, sincerity and conviction, along with charisma and the ability to inspire.
While there are a lot of reasons to be excited about the possibility of an Obama presidency, more than anything I'm excited about his potential to transform our nation and bring a new liberalism to American politics. I believe that Obama has the potential be to this era in American history what Lincoln was to the Antebellum America, Teddy Roosevelt to the Gilded Age and FDR to Great Depression-era America. JFK may have been on his way to being this sort of president, but I think RFK even more so.
In this week of news about the Kennedys, it's really worth taking a listen to Teddy Kennedy's eulogy of his brother, Robert: