Birth “backlash” politics – the assassinations, riots and war protests of 1968

Robert F. Kennedy.
“Backlash” politics began 50 years ago, with Robert Kennedy and the death of Martin Luther King Jr… We are still dealing with it today.

Robert F. Kennedy.Library of Congress.

Fifty years ago, on the day before St. Patrick’s Day, Robert F. Kennedy announced that he was running for the presidency of the United States.

“I do not run for the presidency merely to oppose any man, but to propose new policies,” said Kennedy, who four years earlier had been elected U.S. senator from New York.

Kennedy made his presidential announcement in the same room in the Senate building where his brother, Jack, had announced his own run for the White House in 1960.

“I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and because I have such strong feelings about what must be done, and I feel that I’m obliged to do all I can.”

In less than a month, on April 4, 1968, Bobby Kennedy made another speech, this one in Indianapolis, revealing to a shocked crowd that Martin Luther King had been assassinated in Memphis. For a brief period it seemed Bobby was the only one who could bring a deeply divided America together.

“He connected black struggle with the struggle of Irish Americans,” The New Republic noted recently, “suggesting that if America could elect an Irish Catholic president, it would elect a black president within 40 years.”

By June, of course, Bobby himself would be dead.

And so began one of the most tumultuous eras in American history, one which we mark the 50th anniversary of this year. Anytime we feel the current political…


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