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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Lion in Winter

I have to agree with Digby that it’s a little unseemly to be delivering eulogies for Ted Kennedy, while he is still alive. Still it was kind of moving to see his fellow Senators of both parties expressing their love and best wishes for him. Senator McCain was right on target in calling Kennedy “the last lion.” But hold the eulogies. Ted Kennedy is a tough guy, who has the kind of fierce spirit physicians like to see in patients with serious illnesses. There are good reasons to hope he will win this battle.
So often we don’t express or even feel our appreciation for people until after they are gone. So it’s a good thing that he is getting his due now. He certainly deserves it. There is no question that Ted Kennedy has been one of the greatest U.S. Senators ever, maybe the greatest, and his tangible accomplishments during his 45 years in the Senate surpass even those of his revered brothers, whose lives were cut short by assassinations.
It’s been many years since Ted Kennedy has been considered a serious contender for the presidency. But he has nonetheless left his mark on just about every piece of progressive legislation introduced in the Senate since he was first elected in 1962. Certainly no Senator has been a more steadfast opponent of efforts to roll back the clock of progress. Throughout his career, Kennedy has been the Senate’s most tireless advocate for the disadvantaged and downtrodden and a ringing voice for the powerless.
I had to smile when I saw a video-clip of Senator Byrd saying that Kennedy didn’t really need a microphone. I once saw Kennedy deliver the keynote address of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday service in Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, a sanctuary well-accustomed to the highest standards of American oratory. Kennedy grabbed the podium like he owned it and rang the rafters with a fiery call to action on behalf of the poor and oppressed that provoked gales of cheering and shifted the amen corner into overdrive. I remember thinking “That’s the loudest man I have ever heard.”
America still needs that voice, and the Democratic Party needs it more than ever. For me Ted Kennedy will always be the emblematic Democratic Senator, the one you point to in showing rookies “this is how it’s done.” Add my prayers for his complete recovery to the many being expressed to his family. Get well, good Senator. You’re still needed on the front lines.

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