No one doubts that the Kennedy surname still carries considerable cachet in American politics, and especially in Massachusetts. However, even the Boston Globe carefully asks whether the dynasty has exhausted itself after the death of Ted Kennedy. A number of Democrats not named Kennedy are lining up for their chance at taking his seat, but people still look towards the Kennedy clan for their cues:
Several prominent Democratic office-holders, including two members of Congress and the state’s sitting attorney general, lead the list of potential contenders who have been quietly laying the groundwork for a campaign. It has been a politically delicate task, with Kennedy battling brain cancer. The Republican list of would-be candidates is considerably shorter.
Seasoned political analysts say the campaign will be defined by the decisions that two potential candidates with the Kennedy surname – the senator’s wife, Vicki, and his nephew, former US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II – make in the coming weeks. Joe Kennedy has not given a clear signal on his intentions; a Kennedy family confidant said last week that Vicki Kennedy is not interested in the seat.
The presence of a Kennedy could overshadow the other competitors and would probably thin the Democratic field. Much of the state’s Democratic establishment – political operatives, activists, and consultants – would be at their disposal. The formidable local Democratic fund-raising operation, which can tap into donors nationally, is likely to be with either one.
Or would it? Other observers sound more as though the dynasty may have reached its end:
“The last powerful Kennedy in Massachusetts is gone,’’ said Dan Payne, a veteran Massachusetts Democratic media consultant.
Payne said the family’s political history played out the way its patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy, had planned, but it may well have reached its end.
At least the Globe sticks with actual residents of Massachusetts. Speculation yesterday ran not just to Kennedy’s widow Vicki and his nephew Joseph, but also to his son Patrick and niece Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. Patrick represents Rhode Island in the House, though, which would make representing Massachusetts in the Senate rather difficult. Caroline has been in the news this year about a Senate seat — as a potential appointee for Hillary Clinton’s vacant seat in New York, filled eventually by Kirsten Gillibrand. Caroline didn’t fare well in her first political campaign, either.
Vicki and Joseph at least qualify as residents, but both are hardly the best choices available to voters in the state. Vicki has never held elective office before now, and is apparently uninterested in changing that. Joseph’s main problems are that he has held elective office, serving 12 years as a Congressman. During that time, he served on the House Banking Committee while it built the structure for the housing bubble and subsequent collapse. After he left office ten years ago, he began working for Citizens Energy, which Hugo Chavez used as a political prop while attempting to embarrass George W. Bush.
Certainly, Massachusetts has other candidates with the talent and background to serve in the US Senate — and that’s really the point. The Kennedys do not own a seat in the Senate, nor should they. There should be no room in the US for dynasties, and this has been one of the longest and most obvious. Any Kennedy who meets the legal qualifications of residency and age has the right to run, but voters of Massachusetts should have more sense than to support someone simply because of their last name and the connection to a long-gone, supposed golden era of politics. And the media should be pointing that out, not acting complicit in dynasty maintenance.