In today's NY Times, Caroline Kennedy has written an endorsement of Barack Obama under the title, "A President Like My Father." Scrolling through her Op-Ed, a few observations come to mind.
First, someone should tell her that alliteration (a habit of my own) can be overdone. "My reasons are patriotic, political and personal . . . . There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged."
Second, her endorsement of Obama leans overwhelmingly on his capacity, real or imagined to "inspire." Of course, most children would like think the best of their parents, but it would seem that Caroline, in praising Obama, is rather transparently attempting to breathe new life into the cult of Camelot.
"Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible."
This is a line of political thought, so common as to be pretty much the norm, which I despise. I am not interested in electing a national savior. To elect a national savior is to acknowledge that we are in need of saving, and from whom are we in need of saving, if not ourselves? If, in fact, we are in need of saving from ourselves, then I suspect that all of the current crop of candidates will be found wanting.
I am not arguing that presidential elections are of no consequence (the current president has demonstrated that they are) but rather that what Caroline Kennedy is engaged in, and what she encourages the rest of us to join her in, is something more akin to religious ecstasy than sound deliberation. It seems to me that for much of my life, voters have been "energized" in this manner, and look at where it has gotten us.
Finally, I would like to say something about the Kennedy legacy, and it's appearance in this campaign. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. If you are old enough to remember the failures and accomplishments of the Kennedy administration with any genuine clarity, then you are probably at least 60. For most Americans, the life and death of JFK have no significance apart from the mythic tale that was being spun by his "handlers" before he'd even set foot in the White House.
JFK has become one of those Democratic touchstones, like FDR, by which current candidates, and their operatives, attempt to establish the bona fides of their political ambitions. That Caroline Kennedy's Op-Ed piece is the most emailed article in today's NY Times would indicate that we are increasingly surrendering to our atavistic impulse toward political dynasty. It is only a matter of time before Chelsea Clinton weds Jeb Bush Jr., and America can finally crown the royal family we've been craving all along.
I am not "inspired" by the legacy of JFK, nor that of FDR, nor that of Bill and Hillary, nor - for that matter - of Ronald Reagan. I do not expect a politician to transcend race, or class, or any other category of competing American interests. I don't expect, I hope, more than can be expected. Intelligence, a respect for the bounds of nature, including human nature, and a willingness, when necessary, to speak to the American people as fellow-adults, rather than confused and frightened children, might just be enough.