Sunday, August 30, 2009

Two Frank Looks at Teddy Kennedy's Legacy

Here's Doug Henwood's take and here's Lance Selfa's. The motif here is that Kennedy's political history is a microcausm for the liberalism of the Democratic Party writ large, which is a frustrating mixture of good and bad. Sustar focuses on Kennedy's willingness to cut deals with the Right (both in the Democratic party and outside of it) and Henwood takes a close look at Kennedy's role in leading the first waves of deregulation during Jimmy Carter's presidency.

Liberals love to hate on the Republicans and the town-hall crazies, but rarely want to take a frank look at just how conservative and tepid even the most liberal ranks of the Democratic party are. People forget that Reagan passed all of his major legislation with a Democratic House and some of the time with a Democratic Senate. Moreover, people forget that deregulation began first during the end of Jimmy Carter's presidency, at the goading of one Edward Kennedy. As Henwood points out, the results for working people did not keep pace with Kennedy's rhetoric about standing up for the poor and powerless.

Ted Kennedy did a lot of good, and his (sometimes) strong advocacy of Single-Payer was particularly admirable.

But its tough to watch so much of the punditocracy move to appropriate his legacy by selectively emphasizing certain aspects of his political career in order to mold the "meaning of Ted Kennedy" such that it is maximally cosy within existing frames of political reference.

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