Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy, Rest in Peace

Given the volume of commentary and commemoration I probably do not have much to add to the encomiums flying Ted Kennedy's way. One of the greatest Senators in American history died early today, and I make that statement with no reservations.

Kennedy's biography and legacy will always be shadowed by that terrible event on Chappaquiddick Island, of course, which has more than anything become the zinger line for conservatives who use Kennedy and that event as shorthand for all of the things they consider wrong with liberalism. And Chappaquiddick almost certainly cost Kennedy any hope at the Presidency. Kennedy was a possible contender in 1972, 1976, and did challenge Carter in 1980 and absent the mysteries surrounding the death of Mary Jo Kopechne it is difficult to imagine that Kennedy would not have received the Democratic nomination at some point.

But Chappaquiddick did happen and so Kennedy had to be content with forging one of the most remarkable careers in the history of the Senate. His liberalism came to embody him for critics and supporters alike (is there any honor greater than having one's very name become shorthand for liberalism?), but there is no question that he was formidable as a foe and towering as an ally. Kennedy was profoundly popular and respected among his peers and while he began his career with a reputation for being a lightweight he became one of the most substantial policy-oriented politicians in the Senate's long history even as he played the game of politics as well as any.

I grew up in New Hampshire, so Kennedy was never literally my Senator, but for all intents and purposes he was the Senator who represented me, a liberal, in a state that was during the 1980s as solidly Republican as ever there was. I was stunned when I read about his death even when it was obvious for months that this moment was coming. I had to compose myself for a second, before diving in to read and remember why Ted Kennedy was such a vital figure in American political life for four decades.


Clare said...

Well said, Derek.

Kennedy will be much missed. He was always willing to jump into the fray rather than sit on the fence. Would that we had his voice on the health care debacle.

RIP, Senator.

dcat said...

Thanks so much, Clare. I sort of wish I had said more about redemption and all that, but as I wrote, so many have written so much with much greater insight than I that I thought it best to keep it relatively short.


bblackvt said...

Did I miss something? She was probably rapped and then left to drown and die. The Kennedys are notorious for coming such crimes. Hate to say it, but it’s true.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I must say that my nine year old cousin goes to private school and had to do his social studies report on Ted Kennedy this week, and I've learned more about Ted Kennedy and his legacy from a fourth grade report than any years of studying history. Its funny how human beings can always remember the "bad" or negative press of one figure, but seem to forget the good that person has done. At any rate, thank you for this post.

dcat said...

First, to bblackvt - you're a moron. Don't tell me you "hate to say it," as your whole point was to come here and make a fucking inane and indefensible generalization.

Tramaine --
Part of the reason about Ted Kennedy's relative absence in history classes is that he is so very contemporary. Most professors barely touch the 80s and 90s when Kennedy became a giant in the senate.