Kennedy Pragmatism vs. Kennedy Moralism

It is well-established that John F. Kennedy’s victory in the West Virginia Democratic primary (sixty years ago today) was vital to his becoming president. Without a strong showing in an overwhelmingly Protestant state, his campaign may very well have sunk under the weight of the candidate’s Roman Catholicism. By tackling the religion issue head-on — he framed it as an issue of tolerance — JFK helped assure Protestants that he would serve the American people, not the Pope.

But the victory was also a classic case of Kennedy cynicism. Not only did the glamorous…