Return To Camelot

I’m not old enough to have been around back in the days of Camelot.  Being a product of the seventies and a child of the eighties, all I have are the recollections of family members and my older co-workers.

It’s true that we idealize the past, but there is more than a hint of honesty buried in the eyes of my elders who tell of the static charge in the air of those bygone days.  Hope ran rampant.  People believed in the destiny of America, and not in the draconian auspices of Manifest Destiny, that the world is ours by right, by divine inspiration, but that whatever we could lay our eyes upon as a people could be ours if we only reached for it together.

The presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy ended entirely too soon; he hadn’t been in office for three full years when the now famous sniper bullet robbed him of his life while he waved at the crowd from his motorcade in Dallas.

November 22, 1963, the year that Camelot ended.  Since then it feels often as though America never quite regained its footing.  Our country was tragically ripped in twain by the Vietnam war, establishing two ideological centers that would continue to fight their battles across the political landscape of America for near decades after, and we the people have been caught up in this tug-o-war, all too often not particularly eager to leave it.

But before that motorcade, there was hope, and possibility, and the vision to touch the moon, and turn a blind eye to our biological differences.

John F. Kennedy, like every president before him, and every president after him, was far from perfect, but the very essence that he has embodied has lasted to this day as a beacon of promise and hope and aspiration that America is merely a step away from returning to its path ever upward.  Finding leaders to catch that vision, to harness it and reawaken its promises has proven to be a daunting task, no less mythic than the search for the golden fleece, or the holy grail.

Many have promised, but so few have even come close to fulfilling those promises.

And yet today, when the daughter of that president of those bygone days of wonder, and his little brother took the stage, they did so not to say they found the man who presided over Camelot reborn, but instead a man to whom his neglected torch could be passed.  They have found a candidate that could once again rekindle that fire that their father and brother once set alight over forty years ago.

One should be rightly slow to overestimate the significance of an endorsement; throughout the course of a campaign countless endorsements come to all players and no matter how snazzy one may seem, the onus is still upon the candidate to win the election.  Further, endorsements come mostly from single people; even when a union or another organization chooses to endorse a candidate, that organization can only speak so much on behalf of its members for this is a free a country, and those members are free to vote for whomever they choose.

But Marc Ambinder aptly shows how effective Ted Kennedy’s endorsement can and will be on the ground.  Not only does it stand as a major party establishment rejection of the Clinton campaign (made even more potent by the fact that the Clinton campaign practically begged Kennedy not to endorse at this time), but Kennedy getting out there on the stump is going to have an effect with demographics that Obama has had trouble with in the past, and just as importantly, Hillary tends to do well with.

But the endorsement works on a more metaphysical level as well, as Ezra Klein points out.  For those like me, Camelot is little more than a political fairy tale, a phrase thrown in when we asked our parents why the school we went to was named “Kennedy”.  But for many older people who remember those years with affection and hope, the Kennedy endorsements provides for them a return to Camelot, a return to a time when we truly believed we could do anything.

It is a powerful effect, especially considering that in the years since, American politics have held so few promises and even those have ended up shattered and distorted, abused and forgotten.  The Kennedy endorsement, in short, reminds the elderly that they still have one more shot to follow through on the promises they made to their posterity back when a young Catholic senator stood up and said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Finally, the Kennedy endorsement has inside baseball implications that can’t be forgotten.  While Kennedy may never have what it takes to win a presidential election, the man is a serious party elder, and one with more than his fair share of pull.  Now, the Clinton’s have been counting greatly upon Super Delegates overcome the Obama campaign at all costs.

But I think this changes the dynamic.  I think that the Kennedy endorsement signifies that the establishment is slowly slipping throught he Clinton’s fingers, and I think if things continue down this route, there will be far fewer Super Delegates lining up behind Hillary than she was counting on.

It’s still a long race, and no one is expecting it to be tied up on Super Tuesday anymore, but if Hillary Clinton still thinks this one is in the bag, man is she setting herself up for one terrible fall.

4 Responses to “Return To Camelot”

  1. I was around back in those “Camelot days”, and I must say that little speech yesterday gave me a bit of hope back for the America I remember – to be back on the right track again. I also think that this will have an awesome impact on the campaign…

    I think “Obama / Edwards” would be the right ticket for me.


  2. It wouldn’t be a bad ticket, I’ll admit that.

    Honestly, I’m not sure who I would want to see on the ticket next to Obama, preferably an elder statesman, one who could temper Obama’s youth and energy with wisdom and experience. Not someone who is necessarily opposite Obama, nor someone who will cancel out the youth and energy and hope and promise for change that he promises, but someone who can be that guy to say not “this can’t be done” but instead, “we should think about this a little more before we try it.”

    Right now that’s as close to a honed image of a running mate as I can come up with. I would take Biden or Dodd, Edwards maybe. I think about Gore an awful lot, but then wonder how wise that would be.

  3. Biden or Dodd would be a great choice also.
    Richardson is also not bad… His foreign policy experience alone could benefit the country.
    How about Kennedy for Vice Prez?

  4. Yeah, Richardson too, especially now when his endorsement is up for grabs, if I were Obama I wouldn’t have a single problem saying, “Sir, you can be my veep”. He’s got some political disadvantages to him, he’s a little boring, and has a tendancy to say some really dumb things at inopportune moments (the one that’s in my head right now was going to the gay hosted debate and saying that homosexuality is a choice… I didn’t even watch it live, nor did I know what was happening, I just kinda cringed and thought ‘somewhere someone is doing something very stupid’). But his high NRA rating would help him among the gun folks, especially considering that Obama has a pretty decent appeal to Republicans and libertarians for some reason, Richardson could enforce that. Plus, Veeps only get one debate usually anyway, so there’s no way Richardson could possibly mess things up there.

    As for Kennedy, I don’t see it. Well, I see it, I just don’t think it’s a very good idea. Kennedy is a great liberal, don’t get me wrong, and as he proved yesterday, still knows how to capture our imagination and inspire. But as far as raw horse trader politics is concerned, for the General Election he’s just a tad bit too much damaged goods. Remember, this is a guy that conservatives call a murderer and are dead serious about it.

    Not like Republicans aren’t going to launch the attack machine at Obama no matter what, but there is such a thing as making their job too easy for them. Plus, there’s something in me that thinks that Senator Kennedy knows he’s not meant for the West Wing, and considering he’s the one that encouraged Obama to run in the first place, I think he knows when his influence in the Obama campaign is going to help, and when it’s going to hurt.

    Biden, Dodd, Richardson, maybe Edwards. If Mark Warner wasn’t running for the Senate I would really like to see him on the short list. Especially if this becomes Obama vs. Romney, a Mark Warner in your corner would do a load of good. It would also be nice to see Tim Kaine on the short list.

    Tim Kaine’s a decent moderate Democrat, and he and Obama are friends and students of the same school of politics, so their styles would greatly compliment each other. Only problem is that Kaine would still be Governor of Virginia until 2009, and I really don’t know how that would affect his chances as being selected as a Veep.

    Tricky question, very tricky question.

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