In 1968, U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy was running in the presidential primary. Having won in Indiana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Washington D.C., but having narrowly lost in Oregon, he was campaigning hard to win in California. On one of his campaign swings, he came up La Brea Avenue in West Hollywood in a convertible. There were people lining the street on both sides; people were up on buildings, standing on top of cars, and clinging to walls. His car had to move slowly as the crowd surged toward it to touch Bobby, the man who would be the next President of the United States.
Rafer Johnson, a former football star and friend, held onto Bobby to keep him from being pulled from the car. The cuffs on the Senator’s shirt were open, his cuff links long gone. It was a scene of pure adulation, possibility, and hope for a new beginning in America.
The night of the California primary, after declaring victory in the most important primary state, except for possibly New York, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated as he exited through the kitchen at the Ambassador Hotel.
Adulation, possibility, and hope died with Bobby Kennedy that night.
In my memoir, “Not Your Father’s America,” I write about how Bobby’s death affected me, and how American democracy has survived the assassinations of some of our greatest leaders –Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, and Bobby Kennedy. It has survived even though the Supreme Court handed the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000, after “W” lost to Al Gore by 500,000 votes. Our system survived in 2016 when reality show host Donald Trump “won” the Electoral College vote, after former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton received three million more votes than he did.
Clearly, the Electoral College system is a broken relic. And yet, in 2020, Joseph R. Biden was elected fair and square, winning eight million popular more votes than Trump. Tragically, the disgraced, twice-impeached former president refused to concede and has continued to foment the Big Lie, without a shred of evidence, that the 2020 election was stolen, simply because he didn’t win. Moreover, evidence now shows that Trump inspired the violent attack on the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, and helped orchestrate the attempted coup to overthrow a free and fair election.
Tested we have been. And still, the greatest test of our democratic system and the rule of law is before us now in the 2022 mid-terms. Thanks to the former guy’s perpetual lying ways, more than 300 election-deniers who worship him are on ballots in various states, running to reinforce the idea that voting in America is corrupt if you’re a Trumper, and you don’t win. If elected, these anti-democracy candidates may refuse to certify election results they don’t agree with and ignore the rule of law. Those actions in the plain light of day could bring our democratic system to its knees.
The best way to protect our democracy and the rule of law is to vote for Democrats up and down the ballot. And vote like our democracy depends on it. Because it does.