Thursday, April 19, 2018

RFK or FKR?

I belong to three Martin O'Malley Facebook groups, two of which I've become the de facto administrator of in the dormant period before potential Democratic presidential candidates for 2020 start declaring their intentions.  One of these Facebook groups is called "MARTIN O'MALLEY 2020: HES PRETTY MUCH JFK WITH DANK BICEPS AND PLAYS GUITAR."
Awkward, but it gets the point across.
When O'Malley was first talked about as a possible Democratic presidential candidate this time four years ago, pundits were comparing him to John F. Kennedy because of his Irish Catholic background and his devotion to public service.  Sometimes, though, I think the Facebook group I belong to should be called "MARTIN O'MALLEY 2020: HES PRETTY MUCH RFK WITH DANK BICEPS AND PLAYS GUITAR," because I think he aspires to be more like Robert Kennedy than President Kennedy - someone who can cut across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic barriers and build bridges, someone who can get Americans behind a common cause for a better tomorrow.
The problem is that, for now, anyway, O'Malley aspires to be like Robert Kennedy but hasn't been successful at emulating him.  Not only has had trouble bringing everyone together, he hasn't had any luck bringing anyone together - not beyond his core supporters, anyway.  Marylanders consistently go on his own Facebook page and excoriate him for his record as governor of Maryland, blaming him for the state's persistent troubles and mocking his Win Back Your State PAC by saying that Marylanders already won back their state when they elected Republican Larry Hogan (whose re-election this year is all but inevitable) to undo O'Malley's agenda.  And despite campaigning for Hillary Clinton with Jesse Jackson, despite his solidarity with John Lewis against Trump, despite his tribute to Muhammad Ali on Twitter, black people have long since decided that O'Malley is not and never was for them, taking dead aim at his record as mayor of Baltimore and continuing to blame him for Freddie Gray's death. Marylanders who don't even live in Baltimore still go after O'Malley on his Facebook page for even that, blaming him for the troubles of a city that's been on life support for the past fifty years.
Robert Kennedy got his own share of hatred from his opponents - a National Review cover depicting him as a viper was ready to run but was pulled as a result of RFK's assassination - but despite his own efforts at bringing people together in sixteen years of elective executive office, O'Malley is building bridges that no one wants to cross.  People on either side of a bridge O'Malley built would sooner burn it.  The bright side? Robert Kennedy, a complex figure like O'Malley, turned people off with own aggressive criminal-justice stance and equivocated on running for President in 1968 before throwing his hat in the ring late, disappointing numerous people who stayed with 1968 presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy.  However, RFK ultimately found his voice as a leader.  Martin O'Malley is still in the process of cultivating his own voice.  He can't be counted out yet.  But for now, a lot of people, particularly in Maryland, are calling him expletives, like "motherf**ker."  While Hillary Clinton gets applauded for just showing up somewhere and while Bernie Sanders is cheered on for his "revolution," Martin O'Malley, who could be either another RFK or another JFK, is currently getting FKUs.
But then, O'Malley has a disadvantage Bobby Kennedy never had - a record in elective executive office.  Running a city or a state is a great way to make yourself enemies who tell you what to do with yourself.
The Kennedy comparisons to O'Malley from 2014 and 2015 faded when it became apparent that  Democrats - including his own senator and his mother's employer, Barbara Mikluski (O'Malley's mother, also named Barbara worked for Senator Mikulski as a secretary) - wanted nothing to do with O'Malley in 2016.  He then began drawing comparisons to Democratic also-rans past, the inference being that he was just the latest in series of useless lightweights.  (Then-Senator Mikulski said in 2015, that she wished O'Malley well, but that she was for Hillary, subliminally diminishing him in anger for having the gall to run for President in Hillary's year.)  Right now O'Malley is trying to help a party that refuses to acknowledge or appreciate him and lacks credible alternatives to an O'Malley presidential candidacy in 2020 win back power in 2018 with his PAC.  If Democrats score big this November, O'Malley, who's beginning to win friends and influence people through Win Back Your State, will go from an FKR to an RFK (or a JFK) pretty fast.       

No comments: