Senate Dems to Kennedys: Pound sand

It’s been ten years since the last member of the Kennedy dynasty had a seat in the Senate. According to The Hill, upper-chamber Democrats can wait another decade at least for the dynastic restoration as well. An inexplicable challenge to veteran Ed Markey by Rep. Joe Kennedy III has resulted in a near-complete closing of the ranks in support of the incumbent:


The Kennedy name has captivated Democrats going back 60 years, when John F. Kennedy ushered in the era of Camelot by winning the 1960 presidential election.

But it seems that magic is starting to wear off 10 years after the last Kennedy to hold a Senate seat, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), died while in office.

Senate Democrats, including those who may have been inspired by JFK when they launched their political careers, are standing by Markey, who they consider a loyal party soldier, even if he sometimes steals the spotlight or finds a way to horn in on their pet issues.

At this point, readers might ask, wait — isn’t there a Kennedy already in the Senate? Of course, but it’s John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, who has no connection to the Joseph Kennedy family line of Massachusetts. Kennedy isn’t an entirely uncommon name in Irish, after all. It has a long history, and like most surname etymologies in Ireland, several of them — at least one going all the way back to legendary Irish king Brian Boru, also known as Brian mac Cennétig or mac Ceannéidigh. (Don’t even get me started on Morrissey and sea-witchery.)

Democrats have been enamored of the Massachusetts Kennedys and “Camelot,” so much so that they have tried looking for other sources for that charm. That’s why Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke enjoyed his brief moment in the national spotlight for his “Kennedyesque” charm and appeal, before it became rather clear that he had neither. At least Joe Kennedy is an actual Kennedy dynast, but he hasn’t done much more with his four terms in the House than O’Rourke did with his three terms.


As I noted in August, when Kennedy launched his challenge, what he lacks most is an argument for it:

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. …

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.

Senate Democrats are asking the same questions about this weird primary challenge, developing a belated resentment for trading on the Kennedy name. They also have a dedication to Kennedy playing on the local oldies radio station — The Monkees’ Not Your Stepping Stone:

Some Democratic senators are indignant that Kennedy is wasting party resources on an internal fight and bristle at the thought that the only reason he dreamed of taking on a well-established Democratic incumbent is because of his famous name. …

“The only reason Kennedy has the ability to run and be a serious contender is because his last name is Kennedy,” the senator added. “It’s offensive to have someone work to displace him not on principle but because he can and because he has an organization paving his path to run for the presidency and thinks this is a step in that process.”


At some point, Markey and Elizabeth Warren will retire and the voters of Massachusetts will duly crown Joe 3 as the chief Kennedy dynast with a Senate victory. Still, this is quite the moment for Democrats, standing up to their PR and political establishment and making it clear that Kennedy is a lightweight pretender. There may be something to this populist wave after all.

Meanwhile, this goes out to all the groovy dudes and hep ladies on the port side of the upper chamber …

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