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What to Expect From Tonight's Kennedy Catharsis

This is my third convention for Kennedy catharsis. When I was an 18-year-old staffer for Eugene McCarthy, I got into the convention hall for one evening of the Democrats’ 1968 Chicago convention – the night a film memorializing Robert Kennedy, who had been murdered two months previous, was screened. When it was done, many in the hall were sobbing. But nothing about Chicago ’68 was uncontentious. The Kennedy and McCarthy delegates, whose efforts to nominate an antiwar candidate had come to naught, and whose antiwar platform plank had been defeated by the Humphrey forces the night before, simply kept cheering and weeping for, if memory serves, something like 20 minutes, despite the efforts of Convention Chairman Carl Albert to gavel them to order. Inside the hall, everything was grief and rage, while outside, Chicago’s police riot was in full bloom.

Twelve years later, I was in Madison Square Garden the night that Ted Kennedy made his “Dream Shall Never Die” speech to the Democratic delegates and the nation. Kennedy’s defeat at the hands of Jimmy Carter in that spring’s Democratic primaries had marked the end of any notion that a Kennedy would re-occupy the White House. In that sense, both the ’68 and ’80 evenings were moments of profound liberal defeat. By 1972, the liberal forces, under George McGovern, were able to capture the convention, but McGovern was never able to command anything close to the working-class support that Bobby Kennedy enjoyed from whites as well as blacks. In 1980, Ted Kennedy’s campaign was a kind of last stand for New Deal Democrats -- liberal unions and activist groups had flocked to his standard in opposition to Carter’s moves rightward on the economy, but they didn’t prevail. Kennedy’s speech, at once rousing and poignant, was a look backward at the causes he had championed -- rights for workers and minorities, health care for all -- and a pledge to continue his battle on their behalf.

If anyone ever delivered on a pledge, Ted Kennedy did on that one. Most of the progressive legislation of the past four decades bears his stamp. In every debate over health care or immigrant rights or the ability of workers to form unions, his voice -- the last voice in American politics that could boom across a convention hall so resoundingly you almost believed he didn’t really need a microphone -- was the most ardent, and his strategic smarts often the sharpest.

I do not know, of course, what Ted Kennedy is capable of saying tonight. His heart is surely the strongest one that American liberalism has had for half-a-century, but his voice, I fear, may not be the exultant bellow of old. What I’m certain of is that, as in 1968 and 1980, the emotion in the hall will be nearly unbearable, the mix of love and sorrow overwhelming.

By Harold Meyerson  | August 25, 2008; 5:52 PM ET
Categories:  Meyerson  | Tags:  Harold Meyerson  
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Comments

Sorry we failed you, Hillary. We should had worked harder - we should had worked smarter. Now we must accept Obama (the modern JFK) as our Commander-In-Chief, tutored by Biden (our new Dick Cheney) ... then again, perhaps not ... and I do approve this message.

Posted by: Louie | August 25, 2008 7:04 PM | Report abuse

I will not be able to watch.

I am in tears just thinkimng about it.

I hate that Ted Kennedy is going to die with America in such bad shape.

I hope he at least lives to see a Black man elected president.

Posted by: K Ackermann | August 25, 2008 7:10 PM | Report abuse

he bellowed so hard the sound was garbled once. great slogans, "new hope. . .the dream lives on". love it. landslide time. we can do it. if i can go door, you can too. time to go to work, fellow dems.

Posted by: preAmerikkkan | August 25, 2008 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Democrats courting Republican and Independent Voters!

The Chantay's - Pipeline (Lawrence Welk Show)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j09C8clJaXo

Obama/Biden '08

Posted by: Yei Raven | August 26, 2008 3:24 AM | Report abuse

Democrats courting Republican and Independent Voters!

The Chantay's - Pipeline (Lawrence Welk Show)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j09C8clJaXo

Obama/Biden '08

Posted by: Yeil Raven | August 26, 2008 3:24 AM | Report abuse

Guess the old bellower showed you, didn't he? It's about the dream--and hope rising anew--and a struggle that goes on because it is larger than any individual.

Posted by: Tearful | August 26, 2008 7:49 AM | Report abuse

My heart just palpitates with hope for our country and that Obama has made the best choice in asking Joe Biden to be our VP. America rejoice we have a chance in this world.

Senator Kennedy I cannot in words say what is in my heart for you. My struggle with Cancer was tough but we oldies can do it, this is what Americans are about Guts and determination. Every tear I shed is a healing balm for you. Bless you for all you have done, and are doing to save us all, and at what price to you.

Posted by: LYNN PARKER | August 26, 2008 8:11 AM | Report abuse

When Senator Kennedy said he would be there in January to see Senator Obama take the oath, that's the moment I really came to grips that we've been blessed to have Ted Kennedy fight the fights he has - and the many, many he won - for so many years.

If there really is karma or a god, Senator Kennedy will live on to fight again in the senate and to see this great nation elect its first black president.

Posted by: corbett | August 26, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

SALUD!

Posted by: Gezelda | August 26, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

It is sad that Senator Kennedy has a life that the end can be anticipated within the next six months. I felt sympathy for him and his family. However his democratic voice still pounds with radical leftist remarks such as heath care being a right not a privilage. That being the case then the democractic platform should include introducing a constitutional amendment that grants the people the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and health care!

Posted by: DCConserv | August 26, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

the times they are a'changin...this land is your land, this land is my land...it's time for we the people of the United States of America to bring our country back to democracy again...we must rescue America from the oligarchs and war profiteers who have stolen our country...we and our children and grandchildren deserve to live in a free country again
YES WE CAN! AND WE WILL!

Posted by: beth | August 26, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

the times they are a'changin...this land is your land, this land is my land...it's time for we the people of the United States of America to bring our country back to democracy again...we must rescue America from the oligarchs and war profiteers who have stolen our country...we and our children and grandchildren deserve to live in a free country again
YES WE CAN! AND WE WILL!

Posted by: beth | August 26, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Zzzzzzz, why are you still living?

Posted by: Great Grand Father | August 26, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

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