St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Not just a vacancy. A vacuum.

It isn’t exactly a Pulitzer Prize worthy observation to note the obvious, that Sen. Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy (D-MA), who succumbed to brain cancer this week at the age of 77, will be sorely missed. Almost anyone who served in Congress’ senior chamber for over 46 years would be missed after they were gone, but Kennedy was something special.

Kennedy, in spite of his privileged background, was a principled progressive whose leadership was more important than his vote. His legislative worth transcended personal problems that would have brought down a lesser man. He realistically had a greater impact on our nation than his brother, a president who inspired a generation.

But Kennedy’s real worth will probably be best quantified by the effect of his absence. One of his life’s longstanding goals, health care reform, may well be doomed because he is no longer there to advocate it. Kennedy did what the leaders he left behind are not doing: he spoke to the merits of his proposals, and advocated their passage with facts and reasoning based on their substance. His friend and committee surrogate, the ethically challenged Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), and even our golden tongued President aren’t up to the task.

Republican critics and conservative citizens at town halls are punching huge holes in supporters’ talking points for the proposal, and its defenders have been caught flatfooted. Democrats have responded lamely with personal attacks against the critics instead of defending the substance of the legislation. The critics have been reading the bill and documenting their scary charges with page citations, while the bill’s supporters do little more than impugn the critics’ motives. Facts trump character assassination every time. Leaving the substance of critics’ arguments more or less unchallenged, Democrats are losing the public debate so badly that even the presumed support from allies in the media can’t save them.

I have to admit that, after having clamored for single-payer health care (which the current legislation isn’t) for the past decade, even I am beginning to get uneasy with the current proposals. As I approach Medicare eligibility, I have come to be concerned that the health care for which I paid my entire working career is in serious jeopardy under Congress’ and the President’s proposals.

I am convinced that Ted Kennedy would have had a substantive answer to my concerns. The bozos he left behind do not (or at least they haven’t yet).

Kennedy didn’t just leave a vacancy. His passing leaves a vacuum.


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