Would #Kennedy Still be a Democrat Today? #JFK #Politics

Category: A Boomer's Point-of-View, Moral Question of the Week, Weekly Columns

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-8-33-59-am

Would John Fitzgerald Kennedy still be a Democrat if he were with us today?

For this column, I will only use his Inaugural Address as thought to consider this question. Note his most remembered line (excerpted in the photo above) towards its end. See and hear the entire address (it’s only 15 minutes) below:

Listen to his famous “Ask Not” towards the end of his speech.

Consider his use of both “Freedom” and “God” in his speech.

Imagine Obama delivering just a fraction of this speech. Imagine Obama speaking for only 15 minutes.

Imagine Hillary delivering just a fraction of this speech.

Imagine Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi delivering just a fraction this speech.

Imagine NBC, CBS, and ABC honoring just a fraction of this speech.

Imagine the “positive reaction” (sarcasm intended) on our nation’s campuses to this speech.

Imagine who in Hollywood who would respect this speech.

And, imagine John Lennon’s famous ode – “Imagine” – remember those lyrics and imagine what JFK would say (about them)?

No, JFK would be a staunch Republican today. The party of JFK no longer exists. 

 

  • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

    A dear friend of mine wrote me an email critiquing my column. He is VERY smart and knows his history, so I thought it wise to share his thoughts as a sort of “equal time” addition to the column:

    “Proposing that JFK would be a Republican today does not strike me as a meaningful observation; or rather, it is at most a statement in the spirit of “times change and we change with them.” When compared from the anchor ends of a five-decade period, characteristics of almost any organization or collective notably change. For example, the IBM of JFK’s era is not the same IBM as today’s (indeed, the company that today holds a position in its industry, and U.S. American commerce in general, that IBM did in the early 1960s is a high-tech organization that didn’t even exist back then, or even fifteen or twenty years ago).

    For several years, the JFK-would-be-a-Republican narrative has been issued almost exclusively by Republicans or conservatives, and likely merely in order to tweak the noses of Democrats and liberals, who tend to take pride in JFK’s official and long-standing party affiliation. Historians will confirm that yes, in his 2-3 years in office, JFK did not champion what became, in the mid-1960s, the liberal Democratic Party policies initiated by LBJ. Attention has been called (at least as far back as the mid-1970s) to three conditions that were even at the time easily found in analyses of the political culture prevailing from 1960-1963. One I’ve already mentioned: It was a different Democratic Party and a different Republican Party than we have today. Two, JFK won by a sliver-thin majority in the popular vote, and carried only 4 states more than did Nixon, his opponent in the 1960 election.

    Three, related, JFK recognized that he really had little political capital to support any particularly “bold” initiatives. JFK specifically planned on using what he was certain was going to be his first term attending to high-priority national security concerns—few of which are equivalent to national-security concerns we face today—plus building relationships and goodwill in the wake of a very close election that yielded no real mandate. He was president during the 87th Congress (and a few weeks into the 88th), in which both houses were controlled by Democrats. Key legislation passed between ’61 and ’63 included large-scale government funding for mass transportation systems; strengthening of FDA regulatory controls; and the creation of the Peace Corps. These can be seen as illustrations of, by today’s standards, “liberal” legislation that he did not veto, because he supported these moves; and to that extent erode the “conservatism” of JFK that opponents of today’s Democratic Party like to feature.

    Mostly, however, conservatives and Republicans of today celebrate what they consider JFK’s staunch patriotism. They presuppose that patriotism is easily and generically defined in terms that are coextensive with JFK pronouncements in his inaugural address. If you buy into the idea that the GOP or conservative ethos of today is “asking not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” and that Democrats are all about “asking what the country can do for me,” then it is logical to claim JFK as the Republicans’ man, not the Democrats’.

    But beware self-congratulation, not to mention avowing one’s moral superiority: An election was just won by a candidate who proposed that both parties are venal, both of them committed to manipulating the system in one’s own favor, and creating a swamp of corruption. Some consequential number of voters chose state electors committed to supporting a candidate who charged that change, generic and widespread, must overtake the system as it currently stands. This means that claims of moral superiority of one party over another are forced, hollow, or naïve; and that only the most rabid partisans will take any such claim particularly seriously, and only if doing so does not let the privileged off the hook, or distract from the task of “draining the swamp.”

    Bottom line is that a Republican or conservative saying that JFK would today be a Republican (and a 99-year-old Republican at that) is about as compelling as a Cleveland Indian fan today saying that the Chicago Cubs of 2016 would not have won the World Series of 1908.