Business As Usual
The War ground on and on while the president told us that progress was being made. And then The Enemy made a massive surprise attack. The American public, which had been led to believe that The Enemy was incapable of launching such a attack, began to have doubts about the War in Vietnam, and their president.
Bobby Kennedy said that the Tet Offensive “shattered the mask of official illusion with which we have concealed our true circumstances, even from ourselves.” and that “total military victory is not within sight or around the corner.“
On March 16, 1968, Kennedy declared his candidacy stating, “I do not run for the Presidency merely to oppose any man, but to propose new policies. I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and because I have such strong feelings about what must be done, and I feel that I’m obliged to do all I can.“
On that day a groundswell of Hope began to build. Eugene McCarthy had previously declared his antiwar candidacy and had been narrowly defeated in the New Hampshire primary by president Johnson. But McCarthy had initially entered the campaign with few illusions of winning. His candidacy was primarily an antiwar statement. Bobby Kennedy was the pragmatic idealist who could go beyond making a statement. He would end the war if he was elected president.
The Hope that America’s future could be changed for the better spread across the country and continued to build. Kennedy won the California primary on June 4, 1968. In August, at the Chicago Democratic convention, he would challenge vice president Hubert Humphrey for the nomination. Humphrey represented the “Business As Usual” Democratic faction. He was incapable of distancing himself from Johnson’s failed “Stay The Course” Vietnam policies.
But within minutes of winning the California primary, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated and The Hope for a better future was destroyed. When he was shot and killed … it was crushingly obvious that there wasn’t going to be anybody like Bobby Kennedy, or what he represented, for a long long time.
Real change in America, embodied by Dr. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, is gunned down.
That was the lesson learned by anyone who cared to pay attention.
In America … Politics without hope is … Business As Usual.
As race and antiwar riots plagued the nation, Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey preached an almost delusional “Politics of Joy” and lost the election to Richard Nixon. It was going to be “Business As Usual” for the next four years … And the next four years … And the next four years … for the next 40 years.
And now it looks like The Hope is back. Barack Obama is no Bobby Kennedy, but The Hope he has inspired in millions of people makes him this generation’s RFK. Regardless of his voting record, regardless of his advisors, regardless of his experience or lack of it, Barack Obama has done something no other presidential candidate has done for decades. He has inspired The Hope that America can change for the better. It’s not going to be Business As Usual.
If Hillary Clinton debates John McCain, both will desperately try, and fail, to conceal their Business As Usual roots. Their platforms are essentially the same. That The American Machine can be tweaked with a few turns of a screwdriver here and there to get it back to running efficiently. They will argue that their tweaks are better than their opponent’s. And we have seen that performance over and over again … for generations … No one really believes it anymore.
If John McCain debates Barack Obama, we will see a Republican who has enthusiastically thrown away whatever principles he may have had, and embraced everything the Bush/Cheney Regime has ever done. John McCain symbolizes that Business As Usual has led us to this bleak present and to an even darker hopeless future.
By simply standing onstage opposite John McCain, Barack Obama has already proved that it doesn’t have to be Business As Usual anymore. The Hope that change is possible propelled him to this place in American history. Hillary Clinton has given speech after speech after speech but she has not been able to touch the place in us where hope lives. The men and women who voted for Obama in the primaries and caucuses placed their reawakened hope for a better future upon his shoulders. And he has articulated that Hope back to them better than any other candidate since Bobby Kennedy.
Obama’s politics … his positions … are not liberal or progressive by any definition. He is not leading any radical movement. He has been swept up in front of this wave of hope, and his supporters believe that he might be transformed by their hope into someone who can lead this nation out of its decline.
But Obama’s not only a symbol … He is different from Hillary Clinton and John McCain in that they have been clearly deranged by their political ambitions. They will stoop to anything … and he has not. In these strange times … decency is a rare commodity.
We have lost so much since the Bush/Cheney Regime took over. We can’t continue with Business As Usual and have our country survive in any recognizable form. It can’t be Business As Usual because everything is riding on this election. If we don’t change the direction we are heading… we’ll end up where we are going. And what is left to give up before this isn’t America anymore … but some weird American Nazi/Stalinist Oligarchy.
Barack Obama isn’t going to be able to “fix” America any more than Bobby Kennedy could.
But maybe this time … where there’s Hope … there’s fire.
Business As Usual May 20, 2008