This year, I’m thankful for…
1. My wife and daughter. We’ve struggled. We’ve been disappointed. We’ve been let down. But our babygirl born late last year made it all worthwhile. She was worth the wait.
2. My job. The last six years have been… uneven. Uneven to the point that family members began to think I was an underachiever even as I watched my friends and former coworkers also struggle to find and retain gainful employment. Yes, I did make some bad decisions along the way. I regret them. But most of all, I regret having to make them. But I’m finally, slowly, scratching and clawing my way back to a level I’m comfortable with.
3. My health. I’m lucky the greasy fast food hasn’t wrecked it yet. Perhaps I should make a new years resolution? Or Am I getting ahead of myself?
4. The voters who gave the Democrats another chance earlier this month. I can’t speak for the party or anyone in it. I can say with certainty that we have your best interests at heart much more than the Republicans do.
My family has a Thanksgiving night tradition. We like to go see a movie after the leftovers are put away. One movie I’m looking forward to seeing is “Bobby,” Emilio Estevez’s bio on Bobby Kennedy. Bobby Kennedy, like so many other leaders of his time, has had an elevation in stature among today’s “progressives” even though he wasn’t the liberal he is described as today. Of course, that is what made him so appealing. As a centrist, he attracted a wide swath of both Democrats and Republicans and, if not for an assasin’s bullet, he would have been elected President in 1968.
On page 190 of Bill Clinton’s autobiography “My Life,” Clinton described Kennedy as “the first New Democrat.” Kennedy believed, Clinton tells us, in civil rights for all and special privileges for none, in giving poor people a hand up rather than a hand out: work was better than welfare. Kennedy understood in a visceral way that real progressive politics requires both the advocacy of new policies and fundamental values, both far-reaching change and social stability.
Ruben Navarrette, writing in the Sacramento Bee, believes today’s Democrats could learn a lot from Kennedy, who many of us consider a hero.
On war: By the time he ran for president, Kennedy had become a vocal critic of the conflict in Vietnam, even though it was his older brother — President John F. Kennedy — who stepped up the presence of U.S. military advisers in Southeast Asia. Bobby didn’t make excuses about being misled by bad intelligence or an administration bent on war. He admitted his initial support for the war and called it what it was: a mistake.
On sacrifice: In one oft-cited encounter, Kennedy was challenged by a college student who wanted to know who was going to pay for the growing number of social programs for the poor. Kennedy shouted back, “You are!” It’s hard to imagine that today he’d help torpedo a debate about the future of Social Security out of fear that it might alienate senior citizens.
On risk: In March 1968, Kennedy traveled to Central California to support United Farm Workers President Cesar Chavez as the labor leader broke a lengthy fast to draw attention to the plight of farm workers. Kennedy did so despite the conventional wisdom that farm workers didn’t vote, and that growers could be powerful enemies. It’s hard to conceive of Kennedy ducking immigration reform because he was afraid that his party might lose a newfound congressional majority.
Clinton wrote that if Bobby had become President, America’s journey through the rest of the twentieth century would have been very different. No doubt, he would not be the “progressive” hero he is today. He would, however, be a Democratic Party hero. There is a difference.