…over at First Things. I think these are pretty good points, though he should mention that the Massachusetts Democrats’ changing the rules for appointing successors came back and bit them in the ass.
But Kennedy was the key. As a friend pointed out to me in an email yesterday, the possibility of defeat for national health-care reform is the fault of its biggest champion. If he hadn’t insisted on holding onto his Senate seat until his death—if instead he’d resigned and thrown his weight behind his own choice of successor—the Democrats wouldn’t have lost his seat.
Then, too, there’s the fact that he wrecked the Democrat party in Massachusetts in some small but telling ways. His perpetual possession of one of the state’s Senate seats removed a goal from the scrum of state politics. The up-and-comers, the ambitious ones rising with every generation, had one fewer place at which they could aim. In the real calculus of a political party—the determination, half voting and half backroom politicking, of who gets what position—Massachusetts was perpetually one musical chair short.
For that matter, by the people he promoted and the people he listened to, Ted Kennedy also helped convert the party into the coalition that went down to defeat against Scott Brown. The grievance activists and the winners of the long march through the institutions and the white-collar unionists and the bureaucrats: Martha Coakley didn’t believe she was out of touch with her state—for the obvious reason that every wheel and power in her party seemed just like her. The Democratic party in Massachusetts had been allowed to drift away from its base because a U.S. Senate seat—one of the key places where political parties are brought down to earth by elections—was taken perpetually out of play by Ted Kennedy’s entitlement.
Don’t ask impertinent questions like that jackass Adept Lu.