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What if Robert F. Kennedy Had Lived, Media Ponder, 45 Years Later?

What if Robert F. Kennedy Had Lived, Media Ponder, 45 Years Later?

We in the media LOVE to commemorate important events. 

When their convenient anniversaries occur in round-number years — 45, for example — well, we really go to town. 

We absolutely love to reminisce — call it the curse of the self-absorbed baby- boomer generation — about the young and innocent days. And if the times happened to be turbulent and incendiary, as they surely were in 1968, then we can simply put a spin on the bygone era.

With Twitter, Facebook. Google, Wikipedia and YouTube, events from decades ago can seem as fresh as those that happened a few days ago. Nostalgia can be a big pastime and a major industry.

We mark 45 years since Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles, just after he had won the all-important California Democratic primary. Kennedy was on his way to the party’s nomination — “and now … on to Chicago” — he famously said before he was shot.

To honor the gravity of the day, media pundits pondered five burning questions: 

— What if RFK had lived? 

— Would he have defeated Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential election (Most likely)?

— Would he have found a way out of the nation’s mess in Vietnam?

— Presuming that RFK would not have succumbed to a scandal on the proportion of Watergate — which drove Nixon from the White House during his second term in office — how would American political history have changed?

— How would the so-called “counter-culture” have progressed with Kennedy in the White House? Nixon was an easy target for the leftist songwriters, poets, novelists, playwrights and screenplay authors. Would there have been as much to protest with Kennedy, a darling of the left, in office? 

Nixon subsequently invited Johnny Cash to the White House. Might RFK have hosted Bob Dylan there? I suspect that he would have, decades before President Barack Obama did that. 

Dylan and Bobby Kennedy ckicking back in the Oval Office. It would have been quite a photo op!

MEDIA MATRIX QUESTION OF THE DAY: What do you think America might have looked like during President Robert F. Kennedy’s term(s) in office?

Please feel free to leave your comment right here.

This Article is related to: News


Rick Allen

I think the greatest differences would have been consistent and workable actions to reduce poverty in America, and a greater focus on working people across color lines (Kennedy demonstrated an appeal to blocks of voters otherwise alienated from other politicians and one another). And we would regard politics as an honorable profession, rather than simplistically making government a faceless whipping boy. As a result, I think some of the political polarization and inaction we face today would have been avoided.

John O'Leary

Fictional, but interesting nonetheless. "Sensitive dependence on initial conditions." What if Bobby's entourage took a different route out of the hotel that night? I do believe the guy had legitimately metamorphized into a champion of the disaffected & disenfranchised. His speech in Indianapolis the night MLK died is one for the record books. (It's on YouTube somewhere.) He had a gift.

Nina Seavey

"What if" questions are profoundly ahistorical. Any causal inferences defining would have happened projected into the future are pure fiction. Sounds like a topic for a bull session in a freshman dorm accompanied by a keg of beer. Not the stuff of journalists.


Kennedy was an anti-communist, cold war liberal. Although he appeared skeptical of the war in Vietnam, I'm not sure that he would have had the US withdraw. People say one thing on the quest for power but do something otherwise upon obtaining it. Look at Obama's statements on some issues and how he behaved after getting power. This blog seems more interested in exploring the social/cultural questions of possible RFK administration while giving only passing discussion about real issue of Robert Kennedy's era: war.

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