August 19, 2022

Ted Kennedy has been gone from the Senate for a decade now but the Kennedys have never really gone away…and never will.

For nearly a century, the Kennedy name has meant different things at different times. Family Patriarch Joe Kennedy senior was FDR’s ambassador in London during the Second World War. But he was FDR’s ambassador in London. was a stock-market manipulator, political operative, and fixer. Joe Kennedy’s name is a byword political cynicism.

His three sons all had a tremendous impact on American politics. More than 50 years after his death, President Kennedy’s name is synonymous with hope. JFK wanted to ‘get America moving again’, he was the president who stared down the USSR in Cuba and rallied the free world against the Berlin Wall. His brother Bobby (RFK) was an idealist, the family’s true ‘Liberal Lion’ who sought to improve the life of the common man. Youngest brother Ted was an embarrassment to the family and the Democrat Party. He left Mary Joe Kopechne to drown at Chappaquiddick, couldn’t tell America why he wanted to run for president in a 1980 television interview, and was notorious on Capitol Hill for his drunken episodes. The media has propagated the idea of Kennedy’s ‘fall and rise’ ever since his death in 2009.

            The second generation of Kennedy’s never attained the heights of the first. Joseph Kennedy II (son of RFK) never advanced beyond the House of Representatives. Ted’s son Patrick was an eight-term congressman from Rhode Island but, like his father, had substance abuse problems while in office. He retired from public life in 2011 (for now), got married, and has four children.  JFK Jr. was a celebrity since his father’s funeral and considered for political office after he gave an inspiring speech at the 1988 Democrat convention. His Bar Exam follies were tabloid fodder and millions of women mourned when he wed in 1996. JFK Jr. published George, a celebrity style political magazine in which he said his own cousins were “poster boys for bad behavior”. It was said he had hoped to run for the Senate in his native New York State, but ironically, Hillary Clinton carpet bagged her way to the seat (Bobby Kennedy did the same in 1964). In 1999, JFK Jr. died in a tragic plane crash.

 In 2009, JFK’s daughter Caroline made it known she would like to fill New York’s senate seat left vacant when President Obama made Hillary Clinton Secretary of State. Democrats quickly speculated that she could be Obama’s running mate in 2012 and then…but Caroline Kennedy had a tissue-thin resume (she once edited a book of her mother’s letters and was the inspiration for the Neil Diamond hit, Sweet Caroline!) and bombed in a Meet the Press interview in which she couldn’t stop saying, ‘You know’. Obama later appointed Caroline Kennedy Ambassador to Japan, a wise move actually as the Japanese love American celebrity.

            But now those wishing for a Kennedy revival, perhaps all the way to the White House, may finally have their man. Joe Kennedy III is the son of former Congressman Joe Kennedy II and grandson of Bobby Kennedy. Born in 1980, he has led a Kennedyesque life, attending elite Massachusetts private schools, Stanford, and later, Harvard Law. Kennedy served a two-year stint in the Peace Corps working in the Dominican Republic. He is a fluent Spanish speaker. Interestingly, Kennedy is said to be teetotaler, which speaks well of the man given his family’s history with alcohol. He summers at the Kennedy’s Hyannis Port compound, of course.

            Kennedy was first elected to congress in 2012 and represents Massachusetts 4th District.  Since his election, friendly media have been publishing profiles of Kennedy. ‘Who is Joe Kennedy?’ Time Magazine asked in 2018. The Democrat Party has big plans for Congressman Kennedy. In 2018, he gave the party’s State of the Union Address rebuttal. Last week, Kennedy formed an exploratory committee for a Senate run in 2020.

            The seat Kennedy covets is held by Ed Markey, a Democrat.  Markey is an utterly unremarkable career politician. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1976. When Senator John Kerry was appointed Secretary of State by President Obama, Markey was appointed to the vacancy and won the seat in his own right in 2014. Markey is the sponsor of the senate’s Green New Deal Bill. Despite the power of incumbency and name recognition, a recent poll conducted by Change Research shows Kennedy leads Markey in a hypothetical matchup 42% -25%. If Kennedy wants the Democrat Party nomination, it’s his.

            But victory in the general election is no certainty. While Massachusetts is a deep blue state, the Democrat Party’s history there is complicated. Republican William Weld was the governor through 90’s and was then succeeded by another Republican Paul Cellucci, who was himself succeeded by Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 (Romney tried and failed to knock off Ted Kennedy in 1994).  That’s right, deep blue Massachusetts had a Republican governor for four successive terms. In fact, Massachusetts has a Republican governor right now, Charlie Baker, elected in the GOP wave of 2014 and reelected in 2018.

 The election to fill Ted Kennedy’s open seat in 2009 was a disaster for the Democrats. The party nominated Martha Coakley, the lackluster attorney general who ran a horrible campaign and lost to the moderate, hard-working, and good-looking Scott Brown. Brown lost his reelection bid in 2012 to Elizabeth Warren, current front-runner for the Democrat presidential nomination.

            Another Democrat disaster in Massachusetts is possible. Charlie Baker is twice elected and enjoys approval ratings in the 60’s or higher. The same Change Research Poll that has Kennedy leading Markey shows Baker in a virtual tie with Markey 45-44. Change Research also found that Kennedy leads Baker 49-41. A decent but not insurmountable lead. Still, Joe’s uncle Ted never lost an election in Massachusetts, despite his many liabilities. Nephew Joseph Kennedy III is a fine politician and, by all accounts, a better man than his uncle and will probably be the next Senator Kennedy from Massachusetts.

William Stroock, author of military fiction.

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