Aside from their huge hearts and deep commitment to the welfare of ALL Americans, Bernie Sanders and Bobby Kennedy share many similarities despite the decades separating their political careers. Bernie himself has noted the philosophical and practical parallels between himself and the late, great RFK.
One of the most obvious similarities is their poor treatment at the hands of the Democratic Party. Although Kennedy didn’t have to endure the “you’re not a Democrat!” nonsense Bernie is subjected to, he was accused of causing a split in the Party when he joined the race for the 1968 Democratic nomination.
His detractors, which were plentiful among the DNC brass and rank-and-file alike, referred to him as “Bobby Come Lately, ” and went out of their way to sabotage his campaign in favor of Eugene McCarthy’s candidacy. Many of McCarthy’s supporters hated RFK, think he was an entitled rich boy, while the Kennedy camp saw McCarthy as an elitist hypocrite with no interest in improving the lot of average Americans.
To show the depth of the vitriol, one McCarthy campaign worker was quoted as saying they
“would vote for Nixon over that son of a bitch.”
After all, they already had McCarthy to attract the anti-war hippie contingent. In the eyes of the Party brass especially, RFK was a divisive interloper. They warned that a Bobby Kennedy bid for the presidency would ensure four more years of Trump — uh, I mean Johnson.
So much for rallying around the eventual nominee.
Of course, all these years later, the Democratic Party has canonized both RFK and JFK. They shamelessly use both brothers as their Official Poster Boys in a stunning display of revisionist history. I guess they conveniently forget all the religious bigotry the Party tossed their way because they happened to be Roman Catholic and not WASP-y Protestant.
The DNC distrusted both Kennedy brothers for other reasons as well, especially as they became more entrenched in the Civil Rights movement. Even then, it was a top Democratic Party priority to keep their centrists happy. That was not a top priority for JFK, and that goes double for RFK.
We know Centrist appeasement is not on Bernie’s list of priorities either. Because of this, Bernie has endured ridicule and outright, unabashed abuse from the one political organization that, by their own self-definition, should be championing every syllable of his platform. Should be, but aren’t.
The Democratic Party does not back Bernie’s policies in earnest (the potential nominees sure like to talk a good game though) because they are more interested in lip service and optics than addressing the problems they would rather pretend don’t exist. Much easier to stress non-existent threats from Russia and encourage discord in the shape of identity politics. Then the People are too busy fighting each other to organize against their common enemy — the greedy charlatans who have overtaken our government.
Bobby was compelled to enter the 1968 race partly because he believed four more years of LBJ would cause the country irreparable damage, much like Bernie’s stance on Trump. People he respected, like journalist Jack Newfield and activist Al Lowenstein, urged Kennedy to run. They believed Bobby’s conscience would haunt him forever if he chose to sit it out, and told him so.
This is also in step with Bernie’s experience. His ultimate decision to run in 2016 was greatly influenced by a random chat with a down-and-out constituent. After that chance meeting, Jane acknowledged the clear need for Bernie’s voice in the presidential race, and Bernie thankfully acquiesced.
Bernie is the natural and obvious successor to RFK’s political legacy. He possesses the same infectious, fiery passion to champion the societal underdog and acts as a human conduit for those without a voice in our government.
As for the biggest similarity between Sanders and Kennedy? That would be the faith and love entrusted to them by legions of supporters. The populist uprising that has been sleeping for the half a century since RFK’s death has been reawakened by Senator Bernie Sanders.
Bernie proves as Bobby did all those years ago, that true commitment and compassion are easily detectable by the masses, and no substitute can even begin to suffice. Both men exemplify the difference between a public servant and a politician — the former works for the People, the latter for personal gain.