Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Who Needs Enemies?

The extremist wing of the Republican party must be celebrating over New York Governor David Paterson's appointment of state representative Kirstin Gillibrand to the United States Senate. After all, they couldn't convince enough Americans that the world would come to a screeching halt with Obama in the White House, so why not try and convince us now that the United States Senate is so terribly weak and corrupt that one more Kennedy serving within its walls would inevitably bring about the destruction of our entire nation?

Corruption exists in too many places, in too many forms for me to believe that one individual could bring about the Senate's complete destruction. Unfortunately, it wasn't just the extremist wing of the Republican party, people like Zeb Bell and Sharon Hardy-Mills here in Idaho, that believed Caroline Kennedy was the be-all end-all, it was members of my own party, the Democrats. Since Caroline's name was first floated as a potential successor to Hillary Clinton, I have quietly wondered aloud, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

The absolute disgust and dismay with Caroline Kennedy came from all directions, including the self-professed liberal haven dailyKos. Diarists wrote smut, diarists fired back, welcome to the world of 24/7 news and instant self-punditry. Enter Steve Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation (not exactly the "centrist" think tank they claim to be, though Clemons calls himself a "progressive realist"), writing for another liberal/progressive haven, this time Huffington Post:
But the question that is legitimate and remains is what machinations drove Kennedy to reach for this Senate seat. What was she thinking -- and how did this fit into the game plans of two of America's biggest political kingpins, Barack Obama and the ailing Ted Kennedy? And did she end up getting derailed by the Clinton machine?

He goes on to say that the plan for Caroline Kennedy was to not only enter the Senate, but to in fact run and succeed Barack Obama in 2016. Clemons believes it was all part of Teddy Kennedy's plan to build a political machine, a machine behind Obama, Caroline, Dodd, Kerry et al. This from a guy who claims to be on our side.

Caroline Kennedy's rather short run for office, putting your name in the hat for an appointment is as much a public run for office as is a traditional campaign at least if you're wanting a position as high profile as U.S. Senator from New York, is a lesson for the Democratic party, though I'm not entirely sure it is a lesson we will heed. The infighting over Caroline Kennedy is no different than the infighting that existed among the Republican party over the primary candidacy of John McCain. As Rush and Hannity flipped their lids over McCain's maverick tendencies and even later on for his desire to have Joe Lieberman on the ticket, they fractured their party in a way that left them unable to elect their candidate to the highest office. Like the Republican party of 2008, the Democratic party has the potential of splintering. Yes, it is wonderful to have a Democrat in the White House and a majority in the Senate and House, but we cannot assume that all Democrats are content with power alone.

We are the party that elected Kennedys and Clintons long before Obama reached a national stage. We are a country, not just a party, that looked with reverence to Jackie Kennedy and her children, Caroline and John. Some of us sat quietly waiting for word on the health of Ted Kennedy while others hung on every word of the newly-sworn-in President of the United States. Some of us get annoyed when the party asks for Chairman Byrd to step down while allowing Senator Reid to continue his dysfunctional leadership of the majority.

There are Democrats that never jumped on the Obama bandwagon. There are Democrats that cannot believe the injustice recently served to Caroline Kennedy and Hillary Clinton before her. And there are voters from families that have loved this party from its inception, long before we could get a text message announcing the future Vice President of the United States. Don't abandon us in your political high and celebration of self, you might need us come 2012 and like the more moderate Republicans pushed aside over the past eight years by the increasingly extreme version of that party, we may be voting for the other guy.

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