Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lion Is Gone

Image credit: Senator Kennedy's official Senate website.

It shouldn't surprise anyone, given his long illness, but Senator Edward Kennedy died late Tuesday:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who carried aloft the torch of a Massachusetts dynasty and championed a liberal ideology during almost a half century in the Senate, but whose personal and political failings may have prevented him from realizing the ultimate prize of the presidency, died Tuesday night at his home in Hyannis Port. He was 77 and had been battling brain cancer.

Overcoming a history of family tragedy, which included the assassinations of a brother who was president and another who sought to occupy the White House, Kennedy seized on the role of being a "Senate man." He became a Democratic titan of Washington who fought for the less fortunate, who crafted unlikely deals with conservative Republicans, and who ceaselessly sought support for universal health coverage.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy Is Dead

Ian Welsh summed up his work on health care:

Many will speak of his lifelong desire to see universal health care passed, and what a pity it was that it didn’t occur before his death, but I don’t think it was yet time. Nothing like his own bill, which was Medicare-for-all, can pass in this Senate, a Senate corrupted by money and steeped in conservative ideology which despises helping ordinary people. Instead his legacy is simply that he fought the conservatives and their selfish, destructive ideology to the end of his life.

The Last Liberal Lion

The Kennedys are rich in ways few of us could ever imagine, but the three Kennedy brothers all had a sense that life wasn't as kind to others as it was to them, and they tried to make the world a better place for all. I love that picture of Ted that leads this article. It captures the man somehow, somewhat apart from the lives of the rest of us, but still with us, and still interested in us. I think that's why many conservatives hated them so. The Kennedys, in contrast to them, didn't assume that their natural place in the world was where they were. Maybe the tragedies in their lives, the death of Joe during World War II, and John and Bobby being assassinated later, made them realize how fickle fortune could be.

At Bobby's memorial service, Ted recited these lines from George Bernard Shaw:

Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.

It's a quote they lived by, whether it was JFK sending men to the Moon, Bobby trying to end the Vietnam War, or Ted trying to bring the country universal health care.

Whatever the reason, they were bigger than life, with hearts seemingly bigger than whole conventions full of their detractors'.

Now, the last of them is gone.

UPDATE: Taylor Marsh, who has studied the Kennedys for years, has written a summary of Ted Kennedy's life.

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