Hillary and RFK

It is interesting to read the op-ed piece in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times (Jan 29, 2008) written by three of Robert Kennedy's children -- Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Kerry Kennedy, endorsing the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. The match-up of RFK's offspring with Hillary Clinton is, on one level, a personal and passionate embrace of a woman whom all of them greatly admire for her political prowess and broad vision. But, on another level, it is a symbolic reminder to America of how similar Hillary's and RFK's political experiences have been -- and what lessons we can draw from them.

First, all political analogies are imperfect. Still the similarities are quite atonishing. Both individuals, we should remember, started their political careers with famous last names. Like RFK, Hillary ran for the U.S. Senate in NY State as an outsider and won. Like him, she won the adoring support of New Yorkers. But, like him, the moment she jumped into the presidential race, she was labeled ruthless and unprincipled. And like him she has faced an opponent who is considered a "breakthrough" candidate, a man of change. In the case of RFK, voters were eventually able to see through the din and dust to his true progressive beliefs. In the case of Hillary Clinton, her triumphs in New Hampshire, Nevada and Michigan suggest that as more and more people listen to her, the more they are willing to embrace her as the most reliable liberal trailblazer in the contest.