Sunday, November 16, 2014

RFK Redux

"I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President."  LBJ, March 31, 1968.

All through the fall and winter of 1967-68 Robert F Kennedy debated with himself and his inner circle on whether to seek the presidency, challenging an elected president from his own party.  There was no love lost between RFK and LBJ; in fact, RFK had tried to keep LBJ off the ticket in 1960.  Still, running against a sitting elected official from one's own party was, and remains, high treason in any political race.  Challenging, and loosing, would certainly result in political banishment.  Eugene McCarthy had no qualms about such a challenge.  Today, McCarthy would be branded an extremist; he was running a one issue campaign: get the U.S. out of the Vietnam War at any price.  In the first primary held that year, in New Hampshire on March 12, 1968, McCarthy lost to LBJ, but won far more votes than expected.  Four days later, RFK stopped wavering and entered the race.  LBJ, being a shrewd politician, made the best decision for himself, his party and the nation.  He went on national television on March 31, 1968, to give a speech updating the country on the progress of the war in Vietnam, and after speaking at length on the war, shocked nearly everyone, except his wife, by ending the speech with the quote above.

In Colorado Springs we may be seeing a mini replay of history.  We have a mayor who has lost most of the support that carried him into office three and a half years ago.  Gone are the moderates.  Gone are the business women and men who need a city voice and involvement to woo new businesses to town.  Gone are those who thought he would provide community leadership.  Gone are those who thought he would provide city government with sound administration.

In September, we saw the entrance into the race of two candidates for mayor: Amy Lathan and John Suthers.  This past week, Mary Lou Makepeace entered the race, in all likelihood rounding out the list of big names in the race.  John Suthers, at least, had been considering a run for nearly a year.  Was Lathan's entrance into the race enough to convince Suthers of Bach’s vulnerability?

What decision will Bach make?  Will he, like LBJ, make the honorable decision and withdraw from a race that, at least, will be more expensive, both financially and emotionally than he may be able to comprehend?  When one runs against an incumbent, one must convince the voter not only that the incumbent is bad, but that the challenger is the better alternative.  On the first issue, one can see the ads now featuring potholes and other decaying infrastructure; depicting a city administration where the average department head tenure is less than 18 months; portraying constant squabbles with a city council he has made no attempt to woo or work with.  Additionally, there will be remarks from community leaders he has brusquely pushed aside when they dared to disagree with him.  LBJ was a master at his craft; Bach, not so much.

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