In the 1994 election, Edward M. Kennedy knew the state of Massachusetts was looking for change. In fact, he almost lost his Senate Seat to Gov. Mitt Romney! In his biography True Compass, in a chapter called "Campaigning for Political Survival," he writes:
...Troubling fires of discontent burned in Massachusetts and the nation. There was increasing unhappiness with the status quo and a strong aversion to incumbency. There were reasons enough for discontent. People were hurting in my state and across the country. The rhetoric by political leaders was to demonize the poor as people getting something for nothing.
The rhetoric of demonizing the poor was especially effective that year" of 1994 due in part to the Gingrich "Contract with America" and the Reagan Revolution. "Just before Labor Day", Kennedy writes, "Mitt Romney and me (were) virtually tied!
An effective political campaign force is a bit like an army. Large, well-trained, disciplined with varying and complex missions and overseen by a tight chain of command.
True Compass allows Edward M. Kennedy to set the record straight. He knew before he died that folks in Massachusetts were getting concerned about health care legislation. He foresaw the political winds of change that showed his traditional democratic voters growing weary of a social safety net. He understood that he could not take the voters of Boston or great Mass. for granted. There are no guarantees.
I cut my political teeth on the Kennedy for President campaign in 1980. On August 10, 1980, I was at the Democratic National Convention in New York at Madison Square Garden. My cub reporter job was supporting the chief political correspondent for an Iowa daily paper as his credentialed "press" intern.
President Carter had already sewn-up the nomination but Sen. Kennedy would not concede. I broke a front page story about President Carter locking-out Kennedy's delegates during the roll-call vote and staunching celebration of a united party behind Carter's nomination.
Teddy Kennedy had already lost Iowa big to President Jimmy Carter by not having a good ground operation in spite of his own valiant efforts to criss-cross the state. Carter had anticipated Kennedy's run; stemmed the tide; took the party leadership and trade union vote; and secured early endorsement from some of Kennedy's most trusted colleagues. The senator would not make that mistake again.
Enter stage left (or stage right, even): State Sen. Scott Brown's Senatorial race to win traditional democrats along lines of voters being angry or disenfranchised. State's Attorney General Martha Coakley is seen as a vote for nationalized health care. Brown has the audacity to run for a seat held by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy for 47 years and by a member of the Kennedy family for 53 years. He just might win.
I have been close to the Kennedy dynasty for most of my life. I have been to his home and to his office over the decades. One year, I created a special birthday commemoration in the mid-1990s with the Washington National Opera and had Placido Domingo come to Senator Kennedy's office to sing. Working with the Kennedy Center, I helped lobby the Senate for a historic designation for the Opera. We got the support of Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Pat Leahy. Ted Kennedy had a pretty good voice and was in strong baritone harmonies along with Placido Domingo's tenor.
I was invited to the McLean home for a party discussion and fundraiser on Chain Bridge Road, not far from my house, with Vicki serving some food. We attended St. Luke's Catholic Church together - more often with Ethel and her kids than with Teddy's - so my belief in the Kennedy family runs deep. It will be a shock to see his Senate Seat go and perhaps an end of a half century of strong liberal representation from Boston and Hyannis.
Mike Smith is a Washington native who writes for several political blogs. He has been covering and commenting on Sen. Kennedy for over 30 years.
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