What is it about the Kennedys that make otherwise rational Americans suddenly yearn for royalty? The latest to succumb to the impulse is not a die-hard lefty looking to find an easy way to avoid an open election, but a conservative Republican from Utah who should know better. Senator Orrin Hatch wants to see Ted Kennedy’s widow Vicki appointed to replace Ted, at least temporarily (via Jules Crittenden):
Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Edward Kennedy who won America’s hearts over the course of her public mourning, is being urged by family and friends to consider her late husband’s Senate seat, even as a field of contenders waits for the right moment to launch their own campaigns.
A Democratic operative with Kennedy contacts told the Herald yesterday Vicki Kennedy is “very much interested” in occupying the seat to see his life’s work completed. A family friend said nephew Joseph P. Kennedy II also is being urged by friends and family to run.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a close friend of the late senator, publicly urged Vicki Kennedy’s appointment to the post, at least on an interim basis.
“I think Vicki ought to be considered,” Hatch said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “She’s a very brilliant lawyer. She’s a very solid individual. She certainly made a difference in Ted’s life, let me tell you. And I have nothing but great respect for her.”
Well, then she should run for the seat in the special election. If the voters want to have Mrs. Kennedy replace her husband, they’ll have that opportunity in January, thanks to the law that Ted Kennedy helped push in 2004. She can make her case then, along with other contenders, and have the state make that determination, not Deval Patrick as some sort of a special-case bypass of democracy for just the Kennedy clan.
At least in New York, David Paterson had the authority to appoint a replacement for Hillary Clinton. Democrats started agitating for Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg to fill the seat, even though the daughter of John Kennedy had never held political office, nor had been much involved in electoral politics before campaigning for Barack Obama. Schlossberg tried making a public play for the seat but exposed herself as unprepared for the task, and Paterson chose Kirsten Gillibrand instead.
One might think that Republicans would be immune to that impulse, but apparently not. Ted Kennedy’s seat is not a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kennedy Inc., nor is it a birthright to the Kennedy clan. They’ve held that seat without much trouble for more than a half-century between John and Ted, and perhaps Massachusetts might like to see someone else have a chance at it. Whether they do or not, the choice should be theirs, as Kennedy himself ensured by helping to strip the governor of the authority to make appointments. Why would a Republican from Utah gainsay that?
Michael Barone thinks that royalism has come to an end in the US with Kennedy’s passing:
Edward Kennedy was buried Saturday, the last son of Joseph and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, the longest-serving member of the only royal political family our democratic republic has ever produced. Those who remember the 1960s understand viscerally, even if they do not share themselves, the almost mystical devotion the Kennedys inspired. Those who do not find it harder to understand, and those who come after us may find it utterly mystifying.
But it was real. Other political families — the Adamses, the Harrisons, the Tafts — produced multiple generations of national politicians but generated nothing like mass enthusiasm. The sons of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt set out on political careers but never got very far. …
The next generation of Kennedys has had mostly disappointing political careers. Joe Kennedy and Patrick Kennedy made it to Congress; Kathleen Townsend and Mark Shriver failed to do so; Maria Shriver made it to the governor’s mansion in Sacramento, but Townsend failed to do so in Annapolis; Caroline Kennedy will not follow her father and uncles in the Senate.
I suspect the royal status the Kennedys temporarily achieved in our democratic republic will seem bizarre to future generations. Perhaps it already does even for those of us who can remember the 1960s.
Mystifying? Entirely. Hopefully, this will put an end to it.