Markey and Kennedy — Take a Knee for Kaepernick

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A recent headline in The Boston Globe dubbed it “TV’s best new comedy.”

Columnist Scot Lehigh was referring to the Ed Markey-Joe Kennedy senatorial debates. Apparently, Lehigh failed to detect any parallels with the historic Lincoln-Douglas clashes. Of course, those contests took place long before television, and at a time when politicians were capable of stringing together more than a sentence fragment or two of coherent thought. Most importantly, the stakes were a bit higher in the lead-up to the real Civil War. The issues were weightier, concerning slavery and the Union. Today, Markey and Kennedy stoop to sparring over who can more effectively shill for money-grubbing marijuana interests.

Without invoking Abraham Lincoln — remember kids, no matter what your lefty teacher says, he was a Republican — or Democrat Stephen Douglas, Lehigh tried to answer the simple question:  “Why is Joe Kennedy running for the US Senate?”

The Globe columnist gave it the old college try before concluding that “logic, facts and history” are debating points “which Young Kennedy obviously finds confounding.”

Apparently, no one at the newspaper recalled that confounding television appearances have been something of a Kennedy family specialty since Senator Ted appeared on CBS back on November 4,1979, when the push for the Bay State lawmaker to take on Democrat President Jimmy Carter had reached fever pitch. Sitting with Kennedy in Hyannisport was not a wily political opponent, but mainstream newsman Roger Mudd, a social friend of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy. 

Mudd had the effrontery to ask Ted a trick question. “Why,” queried Mudd, “do you want to be President?”

Kennedy appeared stymied and sounded worse. He hesitated, stumbled, bumbled, and hesitated some more. In the aftermath to this national humiliation, his aides absurdly accused the politically liberal newscaster of sandbagging and ambushing the senator.

Now comes grand-nephew Joe equally flummoxed at finding a justification for seeking higher office. No doubt, his first reflex is to reach for that old chestnut: “Do you know who I am?” Another answer might be:  This is Massachusetts, where Kennedy’s don’t need a rationale but only the ambition for public office.

Of course, the most honest explanation is that the Kennedy family got thrown off course by events beyond their control. Up to this point, Kennedys have waited for Massachusetts political offices to open up, rather than take on incumbent Democrats. John F. Kennedy won a vacant U.S. House of Representatives seat, then defeated Republican Henry Cabot Lodge for the U.S. Senate six years later. Ted Kennedy won a Senate seat that had been temporarily filled by a place holder, after brother John acceded to the presidency. Joe II also won an election for a vacant House seat in 1986; his son, the current senatorial candidate Joe III, followed suit in 2012.

That’s a lot of Kennedys to follow through a lot of elections, but suffice to say none were at the expense of an incumbent Democrat.

So the question is:  Why did Joe III break family precedent in the Commonwealth and challenge a long-serving Democrat? The answer lies in the shock to the liberal establishment administered by Ayanna Pressley when she upended progressive Democrat Congressman Mike Capuano in the House district that traces its heritage through both John and Joe II Kennedy. The Kennedys learned that patience no longer pays dividends among liberals in Bay State politics. By taking on the wobbly, geriatric Markey now, Joe hopes to lay first claim to a Senate seat for life and to bypass facing Pressley, Attorney General Maura Healey, or any other woman or minority in the future.

Joe thereby escapes being labeled the entitled Kennedy who stands in the way of a woman or minority from advancing in the Democrat Party. Instead, a Kennedy bringing youth and vigor to a campaign harkens back to happier days for the Cape Cod clan. That’s why he is taking the unprecedented step of knee-capping an old-guard leftist Democrat who has been frozen in elective office since before either Pressley or Kennedy were born. 

Of course, in this moment of “white privilege” mea culpas, neither Markey nor Kennedy is surrendering his personally privileged position to make way for a minority. One is clinging to his lifetime prerogatives; the other is clawing his way to yet another family birthright. 

In a curious June 9 statement, Kennedy told the New England Patriots to hire controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick. “The Patriots,” Kennedy tweeted, “should sign him.” Having just deep-sixed one aging quarterback, the last thing the Kraft family or coach Bill Belichick want is another quarterback controversy. 

Here’s a notion: In the interest of diversity, Kennedy and Markey both take a knee, step aside, and endorse Kaepernick for senator. Massachusetts Democrats could do worse. With a choice between Markey and Kennedy, likely they will.


Joseph Tortelli is a freelance writer. Read other columns by Mr. Tortelli here.