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January 29, 2008

The Ted Kennedy Kiss Of Death, Er, Endorsement

Ted Kennedy and a significant portion of the Kennedy family have endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. The move comes as a slap at the Clintons, with whom Kennedy had publicly become annoyed over their campaigning in the past few weeks. It also confirms for many that Obama represents the old-school Left rather than the embrace of the center, as Obama has attempted to portray himself in the campaign:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy delivered a highly prized endorsement for Sen. Barack Obama yesterday as well as a pointed rebuttal to the main lines of attack used against him by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, Bill Clinton.

In a clear reference to the criticism repeated by the Democratic senator from New York and the former president that Obama (D-Ill.) does not have the experience for the White House, Kennedy -- borrowing one of the Clintons' favorite phrases -- said Obama is "ready to be president on Day One."

He also rebutted their contention that Obama has been inconsistent in his opposition to the war in Iraq and said Obama represents a new era and a rejection of "old politics."

Huh? No one represents "old politics" better than Ted Kennedy. In fact, Bill Clinton's ascension in 1992 came in large part from a push by the Democratic Leadership Council, which formed as a means to promote a new center-Left direction to abandon the hard-Left policies that had begun to marginalize the Democratic Party, especially after the fall of the Soviet Union. Ted Kennedy served as the epitome of the Old Guard that opposed the DLC's rejection of traditional Democratic populism.

Kennedy is trying to bring back old-school Democratic politics, but with a younger face.

This will definitely increase the tension in the party between its two potential standard-bearers. Kennedy ensured that by using Hillary's themes to tweak the Clintons, declaring Obama ready on Day One to assume the responsibilities of power. He also noted that Obama was the candidate with "extraordinary gifts of leadership and character", another thinly-veiled attack on both Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have demonstrated neither in this campaign.

The coming storm won't just involve the Obama/Kennedy faction and the Clintons, either. New York's National Organization for Women put out a statement that shrieked at Kennedy's "betrayal":

And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton (they will of course say they support a woman president, just not “this” one). ‘They’ are Howard Dean and Jim Dean (Yup! That’s Howard’s brother) who run DFA (that’s the group and list from the Dean campaign that we women helped start and grow). They are Alternet, Progressive Democrats of America,, Kucinich lovers and all the other groups that take women’s money, say they’ll do feminist and women’s rights issues one of these days, and conveniently forget to mention women and children when they talk about poverty or human needs or America’s future or whatever.

Obviously, someone forgot to run this by an editor; I've never seen "Yup!" in a press release from a major political organization before. It started with a barely-covert reference to the many Kennedy peccadilloes with women, saying that NOW has "forgiven" Kennedy for specific and non-specific offenses against women in exchange for his apparently lukewarm support of women's rights as Senator.

As I have written before, this is the end result of identity politics -- and it's not pretty. The identity factions of the Democratic Party appear poised to rip each other to shreds, and in the process weaken the party considerably. Kennedy's pointed endorsement may provide the catalyst for a major meltdown, but even if that doesn't come, the nastiness will continue to echo through the electoral cycle.

And that doesn't even address what the Kennedy endorsement does to Obama in a general election. Putting Obama on the Kennedy axis effectively identifies him as radioactive to all but the most liberal of independents. It's akin to getting the Jimmy Carter endorsement, except that Carter has a better sense of personal ethics. (via Memeorandum)


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» Grab the popcorn! from Public Secrets: from the files of the Irishspy
The New York state chapter of NOW has attacked Teddy Kennedy for his endorsement of Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton: BETRAYAL! Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal. Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democ... [Read More]

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