For many of us in Massachusetts, Senator Edward (Teddy) Kennedy’s memory was woven into this election. His presence was felt in the race to fill the seat he left vacant when he finally succumbed to cancer in 2009, his words resounded in the race for President, and many of us could see his smile in the race to fill retiring Congressman Barney Frank's seat.
Romney and Kennedy:
Flop-Flip-Flop. In the 1994 Senatorial debate between Mitt Romney and Senator Ted Kennedy the candidates were asked, "If abortion is morally wrong, aren’t you responsible for discouraging it?"
After CEO Mitt Romney gave a lengthy answer that tip-toed around a firm position, Teddy Kennedy put it into the type of perspective that is apropos almost 18 years later as what Republicans hoped would be a Mitt-Mandate presidential win, crashed and burned;
On the question of the choice issue, I have supported the Roe v. Wade, I am pro-choice - my opponent is multiple choice. I have not only introduced, introduced, the freedom of choice legislation, but I’ve fought for Roe and saw it successfully pass. The clinic access bill that will permit women to be able to practice their constitutional rights in selection of abortion. And I’ve also led the fight against judges in the Supreme Court of the United States that refuse to permit a woman’s right to choose. -Sen. Edward Kennedy 1994 senatorial debateTeddy Kennedy was simply describing what we all knew here in MA, Romney had flip-flopped on many positions so often, his candidacy had most voters shaking their heads and unable to grasp anything definitive in his platform.
A couple of weeks ago I had several diary drafts full of research references and quotes about our experiences here in MA that reflected what I call Mitt's "Position Adaptation Condition" - a sort of a personality disorder assigned to robotic Ken Doll political candidates who run for office simply to collect the titles.
Then hurricane Sandy hit, we lost power here on Cape Cod, and I started thinking about what would happen after the election. Of course, that wonderful 538 blog was predicting an outcome to the presidential election that made more sense than the networks' predictions, as they were repeatedly warning us it would be a neck-and-neck presidential race. They had to frame it that way to keep interest alive, to keep us on the edge of our seats, to keep us watching so they could sell those million-dollar campaign commercials.
Elizabeth Warren, Scott Brown and Teddy Kennedy:
So I shifted focus to the race that everyone around me was focused on, Warren vs. Brown (Senator Centerfold,) the race for the seat Teddy Kennedy vacated when cancer made him too ill to stay in office. We lost his seat to Senator Centerfold after a cold January campaign that was too short and was foiled by apathy and complacency. Sen. Centerfold got to fill that seat for the last two years of the term Kennedy wasn't able to complete.
We weren't going to lose it again.
And we didn't.
Teddy was sitting on a lot of shoulders around here as the GOTV effort to elect Elizabeth Warren was underway.
Teddy Kennedy was a role model for anyone in politics. He had his flaws, but that made him human. His whole persona was about representing his constituents with special attention to those who were suffering, unhappy, struggling or forgotten.
Romney-care was actually Kennedy-care!
If you didn’t live in MA during Romney's short stint as Governor, you probably are't aware that Kennedy's role in the health-care program Romney boasts about and even takes ownership of while criticizing Obama-care, was crucial.
As a matter of fact, many would argue that Romney’s role was actually miniscule. The program had been created by our legislature with the guidance, input and negotiation of/by Teddy Kennedy.
While “Governor” Romney’s goal in his first year was more about launching a multimillion dollar campaign to remove 130 Democratic state legislators- his CEO style take-over attempt, the people who were actually working in state government were negotiating the various details of what would become a national model for health-care reform.
After Romney’s efforts to take-over the Democratic legislature failed, he was hardly ever actually IN the state; he was off traveling the country running for president. In the end, it was Teddy Kennedy who worked directly with Romney to get his support because all that was really needed from Romney was his signature for final approval.
Empathy, what is missing today
Teddy Kennedy had empathy. Too many politicians these days have no sense of empathy. There is little focus on what is going in their home state and, as in Scott Brown's case, too much focus on the big money lobbyists who crowd the halls of Congress daily.
I see that empathy in Elizabeth Warren. She understands the legacy that comes with Kennedy’s Senate seat and she shared this in her victory speech as summarized in this article in "The Hill."
Democrat Elizabeth Warren framed her election to the Senate in historical terms, invoking liberal lion Sen. Ted Kennedy in a victory speech delivered to a raucous crowd in Boston.Elizabeth Warren’s full victory speech via PBS:
She pledged to bring equal pay to women, protect veterans' rights and Medicare and Social Security benefits for seniors and, to small-business owners, she promised to "hold the big guys accountable."
In closing, Warren noted that Kennedy, a political icon in Massachusetts, was elected 50 years prior, and promised that she would serve in his image.
"Fifty years ago, he said that he would dedicate all his strength and will to serve you in the United States Senate. For 47 years, he lived up to that promise. Tonight, I pledge to do the same," she said.
Teddy was the Liberal Lion, but some of his closes friends were Republicans. He respected his fellow senators. He was a leader who had a reputation for getting to know all colleagues in the senate regardless of party. He knew their families, learned about their home states and who they represented and was able to see them as people, not parties.
I honestly believe that Elizabeth Warren will honor Teddy Kennedy’s legacy by keeping her promise to us, to carry our stories with her in the halls of the Senate, to work for us, not special interests and lobbyists. She has shown us with her work on the Consumer Financial Protection Administration, that for her, it is more about the work, than the title.
The Kennedy family legacy, lives on:
The influence of empathy and service has also produced a new Congressman. The mission to be a voice for others less fortunate will also live on as his grand-nephew, Joe Kennedy, the halls of congress as a young man. The Kennedy family surrounded Joe Tuesday night as he gave his victory speech. Teddy's sons, his wife, his sister-law and nieces and nephews were all there as Joe won the seat by a large margin, and you could just see Teddy smile as the next generation of Kennedy's begin to serve.
Even three years after we lost Teddy Kennedy, his legacy remains; the right person will now occupy the seat he filled for 47 years, the right President remains in office, and a new generation will serve in Congress's House of Representatives.