That tremendous gust of wind that swept across the nation yesterday was not your imagination. It was millions of Americans sighing in relief — Joseph P. Kennedy II will NOT be running for his late uncle’s Senate seat.
The reasons why the former Congressman chose to pass are as obvious as they are unspoken. He wasn’t ready to give up his job as head of Citizens Energy. The eldest son of the late Robert F. Kennedy now won’t have to answer many awkward questions, such as:
- Why does your non-profit company pay you a salary of over half a million dollars a year?
- If it’s not about promoting yourself, why do they have “1-800-JOE 4 OIL” as their toll-free number?
- Why does so much of the heating oil they give away come as a gift from Hugo Chavez?
- What does Chavez get in return for his gifts, and what does he expect besides the satisfaction of irritating the US government?
- Do you feel like a failure as a Kennedy when, instead of killing a young woman in a car accident, you only left her paralyzed?
- What were you thinking when you gave your 16-year-old son Michael illegal fireworks, and he burned himself rather badly?
Anyway, with Joe out of the way (and Ted’s second wife and widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy also declining the honor), the scramble is on to see who will fill Ted Kennedy’s seat. And it’s a two-front war — while some candidates start the paperwork and raising money for a special election, others curry favor with the sitting governor.
Why the two-pronged approach? That’s a story that starts five years ago.
Back in 2004, the Democratic nominee for president was Senator John Forbes Kerry (D-MA), and the powers that be in Massachusetts suddenly realized that, for the first time in almost over two decades, there might be a change in Senators. And that, under current law, the replacement would be chosen by the sitting governor.
That, of course, would be intolerable. A Senator is supposed to represent the people, and the direct election of Senators was such an important principle that it was the subject of its very own Constitutional amendment. So the law was changed to call for a special election.
As most everyone knows, that concern proved moot and John Kerry remained in the Senate.
Fast-forward back to today. With the passing of Ted Kennedy, Massachusetts now faces the reality of that situation that they had concerned themselves with five years ago. And now the concern is not the mandate of the Senator, but the delay — the election will not be until January, leaving the Bay State underrepresented at a critical time. So it is essential that the law be changed to allow the governor to fill the vacancy as soon as possible.
These two seemingly contradictory arguments are easily reconcilable if you remember the single unifying principle behind both situations:
Under no circumstances should a Republican have even a prayer at elected office.
Massachusetts is the bluest of blue states. The Democrats hold (well, held) both US Senate seats, all ten House seats, every single statewide elected office, and over 85% of each House of the state legislature. The highest-ranking Republican is the Senate Minority Leader, who heads a delegation of five out of 40 seats total.
In 2004, though, the Republicans held the governorship, and under existing law Kerry’s replacement would have been named by Mitt Romney. That, obviously, was intolerable, so he was stripped of that power and a procedure for a special election was set up.
Now, however, the governorship is back in the hands of Democrats — the first time since the days of Michael Dukakis. (That Dukakis was succeeded by 16 years of Republicans is testament to how badly he screwed up the state.) So instead of worrying that they might lose a Senate race, the Democrats want to give the power back to the governor now that he’s a Democrat again.
It’s quite entertaining, watching the Massachusetts Democratic leadership and the editorial board of the Boston Glob (but I repeat myself) pompously espouse the precise opposite arguments they made five years ago when they change the law, as they push undoing their efforts. Even more entertaining is watching them studiously ignore their previous positions.
After all, this is Massachusetts, the bluest of the blue states. Massachusetts, where the term “sheeple” is almost a mark of honor. Massachusetts, who recently had a legislator who had championed raising the alcohol tax caught buying booze by the case in tax-free New Hampshire. Massachusetts, whose gifts to the nation include the aforementioned Kerry and Kennedy (and hordes of other Kennedys), but Barney Frank, Michael Dukakis, Gerry Studds, and a horde of other reprobates.
It is unclear whether or not the Massachusetts legislators will change the law back, or if the special election (primary right around Christmas, election in freezing January) will go forward.
What is clear, though, is that the Democrats of Massachusetts will continue to stick to their unifying, governing principle: the need to preserve their power and screw the state’s Republicans (already on the endangered-species list) above all else.