The current anti-establishment mood may cost Edward Markey his Senate seat in deep-blue Massachusetts, but the threat isn’t a Republican takeover. In a Facebook post today, a congressman announced that he was considering a primary challenge to the incumbent Democrat because “Our system has been letting down a lot of people for a long time, and we can’t fix it if we don’t challenge it.”
And that anti-establishment congressman is … Joe Kennedy III, the latest from a political dynasty that has produced the status quo against which he’ll run:
Over the past few weeks I’ve begun to consider a run for the U.S. Senate. This isn’t a decision I’m approaching lightly and — to be completely candid — I wasn’t expecting to share my thoughts so soon. Family is my first consideration with any big decision like this. Lauren and I have two little kids under the age of four. We’re incredibly lucky to have the support and resources that we do, but like every young family, we struggle daily to balance it all. So we have been taking the time to talk through what an endeavor like this would mean for us, and for Ellie and James, in particular.
But I’m happy to put this on the table for you now. I haven’t reached a decision yet — that’s the truth. I’m thinking about what I have to offer Massachusetts voters, what is most important in this political moment, and what kind of party Democrats need to be building for the future.
I hear the folks who say I should wait my turn, but with due respect — I’m not sure this is a moment for waiting. Our system has been letting down a lot of people for a long time, and we can’t fix it if we don’t challenge it. I’ve got some ideas on how to do that. And I don’t think our democratic process promises anyone a turn. What it does promise is the chance for anyone to earn it — if we think we have something to offer and are willing to put ourselves and our ideas out there.
This is either willfully obtuse or completely self-deluded. First off, having a third-generation dynast like Joe Kennedy III offer himself as an alternative to “the system” is absurd beyond measure. The Kennedys are the system and the establishment, especially in Massachusetts. His grand-uncles held the state’s other Senate seat for most of 50 years, and his family members have held seats in the House for longer than that. (JFK won the dynasty’s first House seat in 1946.) If the system has been “letting people down for a long time,” then Kennedys have been part of the problem rather than the solution.
That brings up another point. If Kennedy has “ideas” on how to fix the “system,” why hasn’t he done anything with them? He’s been in the House for four terms, and has the advantage of being in the majority in this session. If he can’t advance those ideas in the House, what makes the Senate so special, especially since it’s controlled by the Republicans? Kennedy hasn’t been waiting for his turn, he’s gotten it four times already.
Democrats have been grooming Kennedy for bigger things for a while, but why now? Kennedy can hold his House seat forever until Markey’s ready to retire. That clearly isn’t Markey’s intent in this cycle; last week, in anticipation of a Kennedy challenge, Markey released a video from his Senate partner Elizabeth Warren endorsing him as a “true progressive”:
And not to beat a dead horse, but what exactly would Kennedy do differently than Markey in the Senate? More self-promotion, maybe, but that’s it. Markey may not be the most dynamic member of the Senate, but he’s a solid and reliable vote for Democrats and someone with forty-plus years in Congress. Kennedy isn’t running to change the system, he’s running to rehabilitate the Kennedy brand and to lay claim on a Senate seat as a dynastic entitlement. That may be a lot of things, but it ain’t anti-establishment.