Ted Kennedy and the Future of Liberalism

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Ted Kennedy, who died late yesterday, was much, much more than the Liberal Lion of the Senate. He was all we had left. Even in sickness, he was the anchor for decent health care reform. He was the one man in Congress who could pull quarreling politicians into a united effort. (John McCain and Orrin Hatch were Kennedy best friends.)

We are left with weak, squabbling, visionless Democratic puppets and a President whose domestic reform policies are adrift—sliding towards the horizon with each passing day. The lost battle for Afghanistan. Seriously. The British. Then the Soviets. Now us. The phony victory on Wall Street, one bubble replacing another; health care in the hands of right wing screwballs at the town meetings. The very idea that Obama, amidst the rightwing anger of the town meetings, and with health care reform in flux, is vacationing on a huge estate at Martha Vineyard with the wealthiest of the wealthy, is smack out of the George Bush playbook.

So, without Kennedy, even as a shadow in the background, who will it be for health care reform? Max Baucus, pawn of the health care industry? Christopher Dodd, bag man for Wall Street? Lieberman, turncoat? Harry Reid?

To be sure there are decent senators—Dorgan,Conrad, Rockefeller, Levin, Harkin, Leahy. None of them with the knowledge, experience, and political acumen of Kennedy, though.

The flag will be at half mast across the country today. Not on Wall Street, where as the sun goes over the yardarm, you’ll be hearing the popping of corks.

This post first appeared on James Ridgeway’s blog, Unsilent Generation.

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