Note to Conservatives: Kennedy Fought for All, but Too Often You Did Not Fight His Fight

R.J. Matson, St. Louis Post Dispatch

Ezra Klein nails it:

There is an impulse to honor the dead by erasing the sharp edges of their life. To ensure they belong to all of us, and in doing, deprive them of the dignity conferred by their actual choices, their lonely stands, and their long work. But Ted Kennedy didn't belong to all of us. He didn't even belong to all Democrats. He was not of the party that voted for more than a trillion in unfunded tax cuts but cannot bring itself to pay for health-care reform. He was not of the party that fears the next election more than the next failure to help America's needy. Rather, he belonged to the party of Medicare and Medicaid, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Children's Health Insurance Program, the Civil Rights Act and immigration reform. He belonged to the party that sought to advance the conditions and opportunities of the least among us. He was, as Harold Meyerson says, "the senior senator from Massachusetts and for all the excluded in American life."

And he still is...

The process wasn't the point. Nor were the people. Nor, even, was Ted Kennedy. Universal health care was the point. Helping the excluded, and the endangered, was the point.

And there are still no excuses -- least of all his death. The loss of one man does not deny the moral urgency of achieving a "just society." Those who would use Kennedy's absence to explain their failure do terrible injury to his legacy. The cause of Kennedy's life was not, after all, praise or compliments. It was, as he said, to "guarantee that every American...will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege."

He was a liberal. And some of us are still proud of the moniker. So, GOP please stop trying to claim he wouldn't want a good healthcare bill. Stop pulling a 'Wellstone.' His memory will be honored by passing a good healthcare bill for all.

And a related note from Aimai:

In both cases [Paul Wellstone and Coretta Scott King] the left was lectured in how we are to understand the lives of our own members and we were ordered not to celebrate those lives, not to take up the banner of their causes, but to mourn quietly, secretly, almost shamefacedly. But funerals and memorials aren't about something quiet, private, shameful. Death and Politics are both important parts of life. Funerals and memorials are places where we gather to be together and to pursue communal goals. We mourn, but we celebrate. We gather together to remember, and to plan to leap forward.

In America, as around the world there is a natural logic to the political and social use of the funeral. The end of one life is not the end of that person's struggle. Sometimes its the key inflection point, the moment that the solitary struggle becomes public, or the moment that the lone voice, though stilled, is taken up....

I wish they [the right] were honest enough to acknowledge the fact that we all do the same thing: we celebrate that which we think is good, we fight for the continuance of policies that we want to see continued, and we use the lives and the deaths of our members to further those policies. Its human. Its Civil. Its Social. Its Public. These aren't dirty words and they don't dirty the memory of the deceased.


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Not that I don't think Kennedy was a great classical liberal, and not that I don't think non-liberal and corporatist Democrats suck my fucking nutsack, but it must be acknowledged that being completely free of any election pressure whatsoever virtually throughout his entire tenure in the Senate made it a fuckton easier as a practical matter for Kennedy to *be* a classical liberal.

The Wellstone shindig elected Norm Coleman to the Senate. Party on.

The GOP voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act in far higher proportion than did the Democrats. Democrats unsuccessfully filibustered it, as they had Eisenhower's 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights Acts. The most senior current Democrat senator was one of the leading obstructionists, fergawdsake.

You and Mr. Klein both need to learn some history.

Democrats unsuccessfully filibustered it, as they had Eisenhower's 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights Acts.

And their sons carried on that tradition - as Republicans.

By natural cynic (not verified) on 27 Aug 2009 #permalink

1) Whenever I doubt the value of liberalism, I always think of Orwell's description of Dickens:

"It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry â in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls."
2) Maybe the Wellstone funeral oration got Coleman elected, but the Ronald Reagan shindig cost the Republicans the House, the Senate, and the White House.

Also, remember the 1964 Republicans weren't all loonies. You had people like Nelson Rockefeller who would be classified as a communist terrorist fanatic by modern Republicans, and the Democrats still included southerners who voted Democratic because they hated Lincoln. These folks have since changed parties.