The End of a Dynasty

February 3, 2010

The election of Scott Brown as the new Senator from Massachusetts was not only significant in the message it sent to Democrats and to Washington, it also marked the end of the Kennedy dynasty in American politics. Since the post-World War II era Massachusetts has always had a Kennedy in office either at the state or national level, and on occasion there were multiple Kennedys in positions of governmental prominence.

But those days are now over – the Camelot of John and Jackie is gone, the excitement over young John John possibly becoming a successor to his father is gone, and the charismatic Bobbie and the Liberal Lion of the Senate, Ted are both gone.

There are scores of Kennedy cousins, but there doesn’t appear to be any interest on their part in running for office or beginning to rebuild the Kennedy dynasty. There is the Kennedy Presidential Library and the soon to be constructed Kennedy Senate Institute to house Ted’s papers, but that is what is left from this unbelievable run of political power – just memories, artifacts and official papers.

The fact that so many Massachusetts voters joined Scott Borwn when he said that he was running for the “people’s seat” not the “Kennedy seat” shows that the loyalty toward the family and the mystique of the Kennedy power are gone. What is also gone is the collective memory in Massachusetts of all the good the Kennedys did for this state and the country.

All dynasties come to an end whether in sports, entertainment or politics; and so to with the Kennedy dynasty. But oh what a run! The Kennedys gave us everything we might want in a family of global influence – glamour, controversy, scandal, tragedy, good deeds and most of all, hope for a better tomorrow.

The Kennedys will always remain a vital part of our history, especially here in Massachusetts, but that is all there is now, just history.

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Governor Irrelevant

May 28, 2009

Nothing strikes deeper into the heart of a politician than to  have a governing rival call him or her ” irrelevant.” Well that’s what Senate President Therese Murray called Governor Deval Patrick a few days ago. The Governor, who coined the term ” Yes, We Can” and captured the corner office on Beacon Hill with promises of real change, has become to many of his supporters a huge disappointment and to his fellow Democrats in the legislature an obstacle to their vision of running the Commonwealth.

Despite great anticipation among voters that Patrick had the formula for reforming the ageless political culture in the State House, there is now an emerging consensus that he has squandered all the political capital he once held.  His re-election bid, if there is one, is in deep trouble as the Republicans are smelling blood every time they look at Patrick’s sagging poll numbers.

In many respects, Patrick suffers from the Jimmy Carter syndrome-an outsider who plans to shake up the establishment and bring reform to government, only to find that his inexperience and rusty negotiating skills create a climate of mistrust and political gridlock. All the hope on election day that Massachusetts would evolve into a different political environment has turned sour as again the winds of cynicism fill the air.

Granted that Patrick has led the state through some of the toughest times in recent memory; there is little he can do but say no to just about any new program. His primary job these days is to cut, cut and cut some more. In this climate of economic meltdown, it is nearly impossible to say Yes, We Can. 

But if a governor can’t hand out the goodies, than he has to have the persuasive skills to bring change to those sectors of government that are in need of reform. So far Patrick has shown little capacity to move the political conversation from budget cuts to structural reform in transportation, pensions, and tax policy. There is no sense of movement in the State House; no sense that a governing strategy is being implemented. In short, nothing is happening except budget cuts.

Maybe the governor needs a new set of advisers; maybe he needs to take a Dale Carnegie course on how to win friends and influence people; or maybe he needs to read what happened to Jimmy Carter when Ronald Reagan asked the American people on the campaign trail, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago.”