Memory, Duty and Kennedy 2024

Answering the Call

I’ve watched this speech twice and am deeply astonished by RFK Jr’s clarity and eloquence in articulating what is best about the liberal world view I was raised in. That we are supposed to find him repugnant is nothing other than the repugnant character of what has become of the dominant liberal culture. Can you remember any politician speaking with this much clarity and depth, let alone speaking extemporaneously for a major speech? There are perhaps a few examples here and there from recent history, but this speech is light years beyond anything Joe Biden or Kamala Harris are capable of. Or Donald Trump for that matter. I can’t think of a single other politician, or person for that matter, who can speak with such clarity, conviction and compassion on the most pressing needs of our times.

His is a lineage of great orators, but this is the result of more than an inherited gift. Bobby Kennedy Jr has the clarity that comes by living what you believe, when what you believe participates profoundly in beauty, goodness and truth.

When I heard Bobby was running I felt almost certain he had somewhere around a snowball’s chance in Hell, given what a moral and intellectual Hell the Democratic Party and its associated culture and media have become over the past seven years; ever since the Clinton campaign compensated for its complete lack of public purpose by premising itself on the prospect of rendering the Republican party as a mass of sub-human deplorables, secretly directed by the Kremlin.

Trump’s victory was ratings gold for the so-called liberal media, and a watershed moment for the so-called Democratic Party. Together, they turned the failure of the Clinton campaign, and the elite establishment which backed it, into a culture of coercive conformity, exactly akin to George W Bush’s declaration to the world following 9/11: You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists. They just substituted “terrorist” with “fascist”, with “fascist” being defined as anyone not with us. The long war for the soul of the Democratic Party, which had begun in the fractious election of 1968, was finally resolved, with the victorious establishment adopting a mantle of woke activism, and a rhetoric of neo-McCarthyism, to stamp out dissent.

The Demons of Dissent

With this dissent went all deep cultural knowledge concerning the nature of life and politics, replaced by an evolving litany of woke shibboleths. These focused predominantly on rectifying the innermost thoughts of individuals, promising to cure them of biases and phobias they didn’t previously know existed, while leaving state and corporate actors, newly rechristened as “antifascists”, to govern however they saw fit. In sum, the slogan the Washington Post adopted to #Resist Trump, “Democracy Dies in Darkness”, was not a warning but a mission statement. For the Democratic Party after 2016, Ignorance is Strength.

Kennedy summed all this up in a line near to the end of his speech: “I don’t want the Democratic Party to be the party of fear, and pharma, and war, and censorship. We need to be more than neo-cons with woke bobbleheads.”

Problem is, that’s exactly what the Democratic Party has become, and not just among the cringe-inducing incompetents who constitute its leadership. The trifecta of #Resistance to Trump, wokism and covidianism divorced the rank and file from the values they once professed as essential. Perversely, the rank and file came to regard the very people who cynically accomplished this alienation as the defenders of sacred norms.

It was a pattern established in 2016, when Democratic leadership conspired to fix Clinton as the Party’s nominee, and then used exposure of this anti-democratic manipulation like a bloody shirt, to style themselves as the champions democracy. It was a wonder to behold, breathtaking in its shamelessness, and would have never succeeded had not they been successful in polarizing the spectrum of viable political perspectives into US versus THEM. It was pursuit of this condition of extreme polarization, known internally as the pied piper strategy, that led DNC-aligned media companies to shower Trump with airtime.

Here, also, is where wokism is essential to the entire project, as a movement based upon the relentless articulation and enforcement of apocalyptic moral binaries. Wokism conditioned masses of young people to live in a state of constant outrage and anxiety, convinced that lives were always literally at stake over rhetorical events. Sanctimonious groupthink was all the rage, and the great mass of Democrats (or so it seemed) proudly jumped aboard the lunatic “antifascist” bandwagon. Convinced “Nazis” were just about to emerge and shut down open society, they decided to shut it down first, for safe-keeping. The establishment’s imaginary fight against fascism dovetailed perfectly with the woke vision, according to which America already was, and had always been, a fascist nation. It was a contradiction resolved in the figure of Donald Trump, who became paradoxically both a profound violation of American norms and the ultimate expression of the way things had always been. In response to this paradoxical perception of threat, the Democratic mainstream oscillated between cries in defense of the established order of the nation and cries to burn the whole thing down.

In Covid We Trust

Covid arrived like a godsend in 2020 to resolve this contradiction, providing a supposed scientific justification for saving America by destroying it. In 2021 the Biden administration proceeded in stepwise fashion to operationalize the apocalyptic US versus THEM mindset Democratic America had spent the previous administration rehearsing in violently defended echo chambers. The push to mandate the vaccine fundamentally materialized the polarization of American society, turning an ideological difference into a supposed biological distinction. By the Fall of 2021, a preponderance of Democrats signaled their willingness to exclude “the unvaccinated” from society. How people thus excluded could continue even to secure food was, as Noam Chomsky infamously declared, “their problem”. The irony of this political conviction emerging among a people who had just spent the previous four years “fighting fascism” was entirely lost on them.

As Democrats defined “fascists” as whomever opposed them, it was categorically impossible for them to see themselves as fascists, regardless of what they actually said and did. Like “man” and “woman”, “fascist” had ceased in their minds to refer to any fixed thing, becoming whatever it is that Donald Trump approved of, or whatever it is that they at that moment opposed. Fascism could be mandating a vaccine, or failing to mandate it, depending on who it was that was doing the mandating. Within the liberal lexicon “fascist” had come to simply mean “other”, but an other who had sacrificed any claim to humane regard or the rights of a citizen.

As grotesque and flimsy as this charade is to everyone not caught up in it, I’ve been certain the Democratic Party is beyond salvaging for a few years now. The long-time split within the Party, which had emerged in 1968, was gone. The counter-culture that had served as conscience to the establishment, was now in lockstep with it, driven into an unholy union by the apocalyptic threats of Trump, wokism and covid. To this marriage in a single warlike State the counter-culture brought its wealth of sanctimony as a dowery, but lost all its ethical principles and critical thinking skills in the act of its marriage. Any attempt to redeem the Democratic Party would require showing the rank and file not just the criminal at the top, but the hideous self-portrait hidden away in their own closets. How could any politician win support by doing that?

Seemed to me the only course was to ditch the Democratic Party for the foreseeable future, and to hope that the Republican Party could become a vehicle for sane nationalism. It was far from a sure thing, given Trump’s intended return to power, but it seemed at least possible.

Remember Me

I prefaced this essay with a quote from HAMLET, Act 3 Scene 4, which is the bedroom scene, where Hamlet confronts his mother over her marriage to Claudius. I titled this HAMLET FOR PRESIDENT because RFK Jr is in the position of Hamlet, going up to the bedchamber of his mother to hopefully cleave her heart in two with awareness of what sort of man she is now married to. The Democratic Party is his mother, wedded to the very man that killed her true husband, a man who is to this usurper as Hyperion to a satyr. Not that he was anything more than a man, taken for all-in-all, but that a man could be a noble thing, and worthy of the office he inhabits.

Contrast this with the figure of Joe Biden, whose worthiness was never something intrinsically possessed, but was rather merely acquired by promising to pass the office on to a successor, herself only made worthy by the superficial markers of her identity. RFK Jr represents a return to the old dream, of the supremacy of the content of character. The dream of the King whose murder was most foul, whose position has since been usurped by the crude machine-logic of identity and representation. A facade of change behind which the regimes of power stay the same.

The identification of RFK Jr as Prince Hamlet runs deeper than the fact of his father’s (and uncle’s, and pastor’s) murders at the hands of the state, as revealed in the story Kennedy used to conclude his announcement:

Whenever we traveled, my father would take us to the Indian reservations wherever we landed. We would go to Standing Rock Sioux or Arapahoe reservation or in upstate New York the Mohawk reservation. … He loved going to Appalachia, his favorite place in the world… He would take us. When we were little kids, he would put us in the back of a station wagon and we would talk to people. My father, when he came back one time, from the (Mississippi) Delta. We were at the dinner table when he came in. He said he was in a tarpaper shack today that was smaller than this dining room and there were two families living there, and the children get one meal a day. “When you get older I want you to help those people.” When we would go into southeast Washington or Appalachia, he would say: “These are your people, Kennedy people. Other people, the big shots, the corporations, the millionaires they do not need the Kennedys. They have lobbyist’s, PR firms. These are your people. These are the people you need to spend your life helping.”

It is not just the murdered father that links RFK Jr and Hamlet, the mission received from this father, made sacred by the shedding of his blood. It is this mission, as it was for Hamlet, that makes Kennedy so dangerous to the establishment he has now risen to confront.