Remembering The Politics of “We, The People”
Take a step back, for a moment, and recall the ties that bind us all together. The commitment to justice and equality for all. The desire to lift up the least among us so that they, too, might have an opportunity for a brighter future. Compassion for those who have stumbled, and the wisdom to know that this, too, might have been you but for a helping of luck and a bit of planning at the right time.
And above all, the ability to dream of something better…and to do the work necessary to get us there.
Politics is often described as the art of the possible — I say it is time we reworked it to be the art of making possible what is the impossible, the improbable, the desperately needed for all and not just for the few. We, the people…we have the power, if we would only use it for the greater good instead of squabbling over the mundane scraps.
Imagine restoration of the rule of law. Imagine extending a hand to the downtrodden and the despairing that they, too, might have hope in a time of despair and fear. Imagine working toward solutions — together. Imagine it…and then work to make it possible.
The WaPo has a piece on Bobby Kennedy’s campaign from 1968 that is worth reading today:
It’s a historic year in American politics, and during a pivotal Democratic primary in Indiana, a television ad shows the candidate speaking casually but forcefully within a scrum of farmers. Other spots feature similar conversations — spiked with talking points on crime, jobs and agricultural policy — set in a roomful of schoolchildren, perhaps, or a group of homemakers sipping coffee.
It’s not Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton visiting the stations of the campaign-media cross: It’s Robert F. Kennedy in the first primary of his 1968 run for the presidency. Produced by Washington-based filmmaker Charles Guggenheim, the TV spots were made on the fly, just weeks after Kennedy announced his candidacy. Guggenheim created some of the ads from footage he had already shot for Kennedy’s 1964 senatorial campaign, as well as stump speeches featuring the candidate’s soaring oratorical skills.
But the most compelling pieces featured Kennedy — always dressed in a suit and tie, with that famous unruly shock of hair and brooding eyes — by turns challenging and charming the farmers, factory workers, women and even young children that Guggenheim and his team had hastily assembled for a series of what were meant to look like off-the-cuff encounters.
To watch Guggenheim’s ads four decades later, it’s possible to see the creation, almost in real time, of the grammar of political advertising — the elements of style that are still evident today, at a time when emerging technologies and political passion are merging again to revolutionize political communications.
At a time when the nation was at a volatile pitch, RFK spoke to the best of who we could be — who we ought to be. And, in the process, over time, he evolved to become the change he wished to see.
Maybe, just maybe, this time around, we can get solving some of those problems RFK was talking about all those years ago: racial division, inequality, poverty, justice. These are the ties that bind us, the problems we all see but never seem to resolve — and it will take a concerted effort from us all to push for a better tomorrow. We are all — all of us — in this together. Let us remember…
What follows is the RFK ad from 1968 with the candidate with a group of homemakers sipping coffee referenced in the WaPo piece. What I love about this commercial is that it puts the public in the center of the discussion — brilliant stuff. Also, do yourself a favor and read this 2000 essay from John Harwood.