I am an old fart and us old farts remember JFK……a young good looking dude that became the president….
It was 1960 and I was 13 and recall the debates in my household over who to vote for…at times it got as ugly as some of the debates and accusations we have heard this year….but most of them did not have social media to pass the crap around.
My grandfather despised Goldwater and my father was in the GOP camp completely…..my mother even in 1960 would not stand by silently…she let the house know who she would vote for….JFK……and it had nothing to do with him being considered handsome….(at least that was her story and she stuck to it)……
I do this remembering because some things that JFK set into motion for a campaign that are still in place….even in the days of social media controlling everything……NPR looks at those situations….
1. The Self-Selected Candidate
Kennedy ushered in an era of successful presidential candidates who weren’t anointed by the party establishment — they chose to put themselves forward as presidential candidates. After Kennedy’s 1960 run, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all followed his model of elbowing aside other candidates with seemingly more claim to their party’s nomination.
2. Television Debates
It can’t be said often enough: Kennedy’s charismatic and poised performance in the first-ever televised presidential debate set the standard for all future debates. A solid television debate performance has now become a way for nominees, especially those running against a much better nationally known opponent, to level the field and erase doubts, just as Kennedy did against Richard Nixon in 1960. Since then, the importance of nominating a telegenic candidate has only grown.
3. Primary Strategy
While primaries existed before the 1960 campaign, no prior candidate used them as strategically as Kennedy did to establish his electability. That’s now the conventional approach for well-known and lesser-known presidential aspirants alike. Kennedy proved he could garner votes by winning both the Wisconsin and West Virginia primaries. The latter primary was especially vital to proving a Catholic could win in a largely Protestant state.
4. The Tolerance Speech
Kennedy pioneered the political use of a speech to address broad concerns about a candidate being from a racial, ethnic or religious minority. In West Virginia and elsewhere, Kennedy spoke directly about why his Catholicism shouldn’t bar him from the presidency. But he made his most famous speech on the issue in September 1960 before the Houston Ministerial Association. In 2008, Obama’s speech on race in Philadelphia and Mitt Romney’s 2007 speech on why his Mormon faith shouldn’t be an issue in the Republican presidential primary came straight out of Kennedy’s playbook.
5. The Candidate As Rock Star
Long before Obama, it was Kennedy who first embodied both Hollywood-like celebrity and charisma in a presidential candidate. Indeed, JFK was first to link presidential politics to Hollywood in a big way, only to be followed in that by Reagan and Obama. Kennedy’s personal star power helped him win the 1960 Democratic nomination; later, candidates like Reagan (who had real Hollywood bona fides), Clinton and Obama had leading-man chops that helped to separate them from political rivals. While a candidate can win the presidency without that aura, the absence of that quality makes it a far tougher task to raise the vast sums of money necessary to run, or to energize enough voters, or to win the White House in the screen age — whether we’re talking TVs or smartphones.
Just a few things that JFK brought to the campaign and that has stuck around for over 50 years….
How would history have changed if JFK had made it full term?
Here are five intriguing ways history may have changed if Kennedy had survived the assassination attempt, or if gunman Lee Harvey Oswald had never taken the shot.
I Read, I Write, You Know
“lego ergo scribo”