Sunday, September 6, 2020

Flash: That Time a Kennedy Lost


“Kennedy Loses”, a “Massachusetts First”, announces The Hill. That Kennedy is Joseph Patrick Kennedy III, grandson of Senator and US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who lost a Senate primary in Massachusetts this past week. “This isn’t a time for waiting, for sitting on the sidelines,” the now 39-year old congressman announced as he entered the race against incumbent Senator Ed Markey.

By running this race, Joe Kennedy was thought to be tacking one step ahead of 46-year old Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, a potential primary contestant for a future vacant Senate seat, who has a national profile. Joe Kennedy wagered his congressional seat, making this contest an all-or-nothing stake.  He started with a significant lead in polling, which recently had flipped for the incumbent. Kennedy’s strengths were said to be in working-class and minority communities, yet ultimately he lost in other traditionally working-class areas like seaside Gloucester.

Characteristic confidence and charisma did not save Joe Kennedy. Ed Markey, 74, outmaneuvered the red-headed youngster on the issue of youth. He obtained endorsements from progressive environmental groups, and ultimately claimed college towns like Cambridge, Amherst, and Dartmouth; in addition to Boston.  

In New England, there is a certain respect for established systems and patience, and waiting one’s turn. While the 1773 Tea Party took place in Boston, the modern-day fighting words of “Defeat, Retire, Kick Out” are not used in Massachusetts. In contrast to the West and New South, non-compete clauses are still enforced in the state, preventing the type of start-up culture seen in California. In a political machine, it is expected that participants start young, and wait their turn before advancing; in exchange for the benefits of incumbency. Instead of congratulating Kennedy for “sticking it to the man” and holding the veteran politician accountable, one commenter stated that Kennedy “put his personal ambition above the welfare of the country and waged a pointless and divisive campaign that diverted money and attention from places where both were needed”.

Ed Markey, who had served in Congress since the 1970’s, won election to the Senate in 2013 to fill John Kerry’s seat, as the latter became Secretary of State. (Joe Kennedy was born in 1980, and entered Congress in 2012). Markey entered Congress at a time when the average age in the body was decreasing. This anomaly occurred from 1960 to 1980; meaning that later Boomers and Gen X’ers did not continue the trend of youthful participation in politics. It is possible for Joe Kennedy to fail upwards, as there will be state races to compete for in 2022. Notable, no close Kennedy family has run for governor.

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