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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Lion Sleeps

We knew it was coming. Yet the death of Senator Ted Kennedy nonetheless leaves a gaping wound in the Democratic Party, or more precisely in the heart of the Democratic Party. No other Senator, perhaps in all of U.S. history, fought longer or harder in behalf of the disadvantaged and for working people.
When he spoke for the powerless and downtrodden, you could feel the compassion in the tremors of his booming voice. Don’t take my word for it. Give a listen here, here and here. I heard him speak once in MLK’s church in Atlanta. The microphone was unnecessary.
Born to privilege and given to character flaws in the early stages of his life, Ted Kennedy conquered his demons and became one of America’s greatest champions of social justice and an exemplar for redemption. The showhorse became a workhorse who provided his colleagues the emblematic example of a passionate, energetic and hands-on United States Senator. He was also regarded as one of the best negotiators in Congress, a skill which is sorely-needed and much-missed at this hour. (A good DNC video tribute to Senator Kennedy can be viewed here.)
A partial list of legislative reforms passed under his leadership includes: the vote for 18-year olds; abolishing the draft; SCHIP; anti-Apartheid sanctions against South Africa; a ban on arms sales to Chile’s dictatorship; and voting against the authorization of the Iraq war — which he called “the best vote I’ve made in my 44 years in the United States Senate”. He was also the point man for: the MLK holiday, every civil rights bill that came up during his tenure; minimum wage hikes and numerous laws to protect working people from employer abuse. His endorsement of Barack Obama demonstrated vision and courage and probably was instrumental in his nomination.
As Ted Kennedy joins his brothers in eternity, we are left wondering who will carry the torch for health care, in particular, in the Senate. We’ve got some great U.S. Senators. But at this critical moment, there are no Wellstones or leaders of equivalent stature and skill to fill the void. Perhaps one will now come forward and provide the needed leadership. Having a President with powerful oratorical skills helps, and now is the time for him to pour it on, so we can enact a worthy health care bill. There can be no finer tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

One comment on “The Lion Sleeps

  1. Robert R Clough on

    I think Ted was an excellent Senator from Mass. He would not have been an excellent President, however. Probably the making of Ted was Chappaquiddick. Poorly handled and obviously traumatic, Ted grew up quickly after that.


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