I had the same reaction to reading Hillary Clinton’s assassination comment as many people here and in the media. Either this was another insidious political dog whistle–the worst possible one–or more likely, another bit of evidence that she is out of conscious touch with the darker side of her unconscious.
Others have also pointed out that she could have picked many other election years to make her point that nomination battles go into June and beyond. But what makes the RFK example especially awful is that it doesn’t even make sense.
Because had Bobby Kennedy lived beyond that horrific day I remember vividly, the 1968 Democratic nominee was still not going to be decided until the convention. His assassination is irrelevant to her point.
The candidate Bobby Kennedy defeated in California and other states in 1968 was Senator Eugene McCarthy, who, like Kennedy, was an opponent of the Vietnam War, and vowed to stop it as President.
But there was another candidate, not even formally declared in June, who was the favorite for the nomination: the sitting Vice President, Hubert Humphrey. He was a supporter of President Johnson, and had a lock on the party machinery.
In the 1960s, the primaries were young and few. In 1960, JFK won a short string of primaries and essentially disposed of Hubert Humphrey and several other candidates, but he was not the presumptive nominee going to the convention. Lyndon Johnson still had support, and some party elders were backing Adlai Stevenson.
The primaries were more important by 1968 but in that year they still couldn’t name the nominee. Even after California, RFK was in for a summer of politics and a fight at the convention.
Back then, the general election campaign was much shorter. It didn’t really begin until Labor Day. The media and the parties did not assume there was a candidate for either party until the conventions had named the nominees. It was very different from the present situation, with John McCain acknowledged by Republicans as their nominee who will go to the convention without real opposition, free to attack Barack Obama. But Obama’s responses and his own points (like the comments he made in Florida about McCain’s problems with lobbyists)are partially blocked by Hillary Clinton’s loud and absurd contentions, as she made also in Florida that counting the votes of phony primaries is a Civil Rights issue.
So Clinton’s entire point about 1968 is invalid. There wasn’t going to be a nominee until the convention in any case. And the eventual nominee, Hubert Humphrey wasn’t even in the race officially in June. He was still the favorite, even with RFK’s victories in the primaries. So why use this comparison? To answer that requires examining her psyche, and we’ve all gotten a few glimpses that make us shudder, especially considering that she might have become President.