Joseph Kennedy III won his seat in Congress as he replaced Barney Frank in the Massachusetts delegation. Joe III is the grandson of Robert Kennedy and the son of former Congressman Joe II. In short the Kennedy’s are back in Congress. Since 1947, except the last two years after Ted’s son Patrick gave up his seat in Rhode Island, there has been a Kennedy in Congress or the White House. Now with Joe III ready to take his seat in January, the Kennedy tradition continues.
For those of you who hoped that the Kennedy brand would end with the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, the election of Joe III at age 32 signals that there might be a new generation of Kennedy’s seeking political office – God knows there are enough Kennedy cousins out there. And for those of you who go all soft inside at the mere mention of the name Kennedy, the election of Joe III must make the heart beat faster.
The Kennedy family has been associated over the years with immense wealth, assassination, personal tragedy, sexual exploits, family dysfunction, alcohol and drug abuse and naked ambition mixed with no holds barred power politics. But if there is a common thread in the Kennedy clan it is a commitment to public service. The Kennedy’s have never been small government types; they have a long record of support for government as a means of rectifying social injustice, poverty and economic inequality. Kennedy liberalism means government intervention and government spending. This philosophy of big government has not endeared them to conservatives in this country who see the Kennedy philosophy of public service as the root cause of our economic and financial distress.
But Joe III won big in his first try for public office and that Kennedy smile and earnest commitment to public service won over the voters. No one can predict how Joe III will do as a freshman representative from Massachusetts. He will be at the bottom of the seniority list and from a minority party. His ideas of what public service means are certainly not shared by the Republican majority. But it is not an exaggeration to state that Joe III has great promise as a member of the House and perhaps higher office. There has been a subtle shift in American politics since the re-election of President Obama. Economic fairness, rebuilding the middle class, regulating Wall Street, and using government as a source of national investment are now more firmly in place in the national psyche. This is what Joseph Kennedy III brings to his office, a continuation of the Kennedy legacy.