David B.




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August 27, 2009

Farewell, Ted Kennedy: Where Have The Lions Gone?


It is undeniably a different America without Teddy Kennedy in it.


Much has already been said and will continue to be said about the final passing of Camelot, of the loss of the “Lion of the Senate.” It’s all true, of course, and Kennedy’s passing, while inevitable and expected, is nonetheless shocking for those whose concepts of liberalism, of compassion and of political principle have been molded in part by his influence.


Just as progressives have much to mourn, conservatives have little to celebrate: Kennedy’s demise doesn’t simply denote the eclipse of a certain brand of unyielding old-school liberalism, but of a certain type of conviction politician – the sort who, come hell or high water, can be expected to stand squarely and unflinchingly for certain core principles. No matter where one stands on the political spectrum, such politicians are few and far between, and America is worse off for it.


Forget about Kennedy’s liberal credentials for a second. Consider instead who, on the left, right or center, has shown a similar measure of steadfastness where issues of principle were concerned? If Teddy Kennedy could be counted on for one thing over the course of his five decades in public office, it is that he would always be Teddy Kennedy. He would take a stand on every issue, and stick to it regardless of the vicissitudes of political influence or public opinion. Ever the masterful politician, he’d certainly compromise in order to get things done – few in Washington were as adept at negotiating cooperation from across the aisle – but in Kennedy’s world, compromise never equated to capitulation or surrender.


He would settle for half of what he wanted today, in full understanding that he’d be back pushing for the rest of it tomorrow. And the day after, and the day after that, until it was done.


Stubborn, unflinching, courageous – all of these adjectives apply, particularly the last. Consider that this was a man who had seen his two older brothers gunned down in cold blood in service to the same nation he would spend a lifetime serving. Consider too that for the entirety of his public career, he had served as the poster child and whipping boy for his political opposition, the focus for their hatred, the emblem of all that they sought to vanquish and destroy.


At some points, he must have asked himself whether it was all worth it. He could at any moment have traded in his turbulent life in the Washington fishbowl for a lavish, comfortable, languid existence on Martha’s Vineyard, resting in the ease afforded by familial wealth far from the prying eyes and ears of photojournalists and political rivals. Nonetheless, he persevered, unrelentingly prosecuting his case for a more just, equitable, compassionate America.


Who has been his equal? Which of his fellow senators could look themselves in the mirror and say, regardless of party affiliation or political predilection, that their own lives and careers had been equally driven by a commitment of service to the nation and to others, rather than to their own enrichment and empowerment? If they were to ask and answer the question honestly, none could reply in the affirmative.


Ted Kennedy gained his office, in large measure, thanks to familial wealth, name recognition and his family’s political heft – as is typically the case for members of “the world’s most exclusive club” as it has been described. Unlike the bulk of his fellow senators, however, he was not beholden to any of these. It was his stands and his deeds over the course of five decades that earned him the love and allegiance of the people of Massachusetts, of progressives across America and people of compassion and principle around the world.


The senate and the nation are poorer without him – and could dearly use one or two brave individuals, on the left or the right, who would take this opportunity to serve in his stead as the senate’s unswerving conscience.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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