The Bobby Kennedy Pathway

Robert Kennedy campaigning in Philadelphia in 1968.

“… But a half-century ago, a champion of civil rights offered a third approach: a liberalism without elitism and a populism without racism. In a remarkable 82-day campaign, Senator Robert F. Kennedy ran in several Democratic presidential primaries and was able to forge a powerful coalition of working-class whites and blacks, even as race riots were raging across the country, and at a time when whites were far more bigoted than they are today. A passionate supporter of minority empowerment and a critic of the Vietnam War, Kennedy faced an uphill battle in appealing to working-class whites, who were increasingly hostile to civil rights and remained hawkish on the war. By 1968, as David Halberstam wrote in a book at the time, ‘The easy old coalition between labor and Negroes was no longer so easy; it barely existed. The two were among the American forces most in conflict.’ But Kennedy waited to enter the race until March 16, 1968, only after the peace candidate Eugene McCarthy had challenged President Lyndon B. Johnson and locked up the support of many young people and highly educated whites, who were pro-civil rights and skeptical of the war. As a result, Kennedy had to try to appeal simultaneously to minority voters and white working-class constituencies who were part of the backlash against racial progress and the peace movement. This was especially true in Kennedy’s first primary state, Indiana, where Gov. George Wallace of Alabama had shocked observers four years earlier by getting strong support from white ethnic precincts when he challenged Johnson for the Democratic nomination. Kennedy sought to build his unlikely coalition in part by running an economically populist campaign that vilified wealthy tax cheats and earned him the enmity of business leaders. ‘We have to convince the Negroes and the poor whites that they have common interests,’ he told the journalist Jack Newfield. …”
NY Times

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Civil Rights Mov., CORE, Free Speech Mov., Freedom Summer, Harlem, James Baldwin, Jesse Jackson, Rob. Kennedy, SCLC, SNCC and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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