Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit.
Chris Matthews. Simon & Schuster, 2017. ISBN: 978- 1-5011-1186-0. 396 pages. $28.99.
On the night Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, Bobby Kennedy was giving a campaign speech in Indianapolis to a largely African-American crowd. Upon being notified of King’s death, Kennedy interrupted his speech to break the news. In his impromptu remarks following the announcement, Kennedy suggested we ask, “What kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.”
The answer to those questions would be foreshadowed a few months later when Kennedy himself was assassinated. It would also reveal itself in future elections.
Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King and other progressive-minded liberals believed the Federal Government had a role in improving the lives of American citizens—whether it was civil rights (like being able to vote) or environmental protection (like having clean water to drink).
Conservatives, Ronald Reagan chief among them, disagreed and argued government was the problem. While Reagan and other conservatives of his era may have been sincere in their belief government was evil, they were sincerely wrong. Their conservative ideology was gradually usurped by fringe elements of the far-right and became code for racists and bigots of all stripes.
What kind of nation are we? We’re the kind of nation that can elect Barak Obama President and follow him up with the likes of Donald Trump. In other words, we’re a nation still dealing with racism and prejudice. Donald Trump would have never been elected President if Obama was not black.
One of the insights in Chris Matthews’ new book about Bobby Kennedy is that he (and his brother Jack), ike many progressive whites, were latecomers to the true plight of African-Americans and the civil-rights struggle.
The sub-title of Matthews’ book is “A Raging Spirit”—a reference to the moral compass and visceral commitment Kennedy had to social justice, qualities utterly lacking in the current Administration and which are needed now more than ever. This is a timely book.
This book is a must read for anyone disheartened, disillusioned, or just plain pissed off at the current political climate.
Chris Matthews is the host of MSNBC’s Hardball. He is the author of Hardball: How Politics is Played—Told by One Who Knows the Game; Kennedy & Nixon: The Rivalry that Shaped Postwar America; Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero; and Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked.