Massachusetts Senate Primary: You Literally Can’t Go Wrong Here
[This column is SER's opinion only; it does not reflect the opinion of Wonkette or its publisher and editrix, who thinks Joe Kennedy is a spoiled jerk and primarying a really good progressive is a crap move of crapness.]
Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy would like to be a senator. It's somewhat of a family tradition. His great-uncles Jack and Teddy were senators from Massachusetts. His grandfather, Robert, was senator from New York, but no one's perfect. Unfortunately, no Republicans hold Senate seats from his state, so he has to primary an incumbent Democrat. That's a little ho-hum because the balance of power, the fate of the nation, doesn't mesh with his ambitions. He should've moved to Kentucky.
Kennedy has struggled with a rationale for challenging incumbent Senator Ed Markey. There's no clear ideological distinction, like when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez famously upset Joe Crowley. Markey is currently ranked as the most progressive member of the Senate, above even Bernie Sanders from Vermont and Elizabeth Warren, also from Massachusetts. Markey is 74, so Kennedy, who turns 40 in October, could appeal to the tastes of a new generation, but Ocasio-Cortez herself has endorsed Markey.
In her latest video for Markey, AOC describes the senator as a "strong, progressive leader" who helped co-author the Green New Deal and is a "stalwart champion for racial justice."
AOC: When it comes to progressive leadership, it's not your age that counts. It's the age of your ideas, and Ed Markey is the leader that we need.
Most national progressives have backed Markey (Ayanna Pressley is remaining neutral). Although many of them are seemingly more forgiving of Markey than they were of Hillary Clinton in 2008 and 2016: When he was in the House, Markey voted for the Iraq War, NAFTA, and the 1994 crime bill. Clinton's Iraq War vote is arguably the major reason Barack Obama won the 2008 primary.
Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema has endorsed Kennedy, but they are close friends and former House colleagues. He doesn't necessarily share her moderate views. He's a loyal Democrat, given his family history, and has no trouble calling out Republicans, which Sinema is more inclined to dismiss as "partisan drama."
One Republican Senator is denying a vote on an anti-lynching bill. Another is gleefully quoting that slavery was a… https://t.co/61MvTAQ8Yo— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@Rep. Joe Kennedy III)1595958667.0
During their socially distanced debate last month, Markey called Kennedy a "progressive in name only." There's nothing but upside when Democratic candidates want to debate who's more progressive. Fitting the times, Markey and Kennedy hit each other on their records regarding racial justice.
Markey defended his vote for the crime bill and pointed out that it included a federal assault weapons ban and domestic violence protections. He criticized Kennedy's personal history as a young prosecutor in the office of Cape and Island District Attorney Michael O'Keefe.
MARKEY: Let me also say this, that when Congressman Kennedy became a lawyer, he decided to go to work for the most conservative, Republican, right-wing district attorney in Massachusetts in a generation.
I don't think it was a good judgment for the congressman to go to work for that rightwing Republican district attorney.
The senator has a slight lead in recent polls. That's a far better position than the 17-point deficit a Democratic firm found in an August poll of a hypothetical rematch between Kennedy and Markey. Kennedy, whose name is well-known across the state, likely believed he could press that advantage over Markey, who has only been in the Senate since 2013 when he replaced John Kerry.
Neither candidate challenges the white male-dominated power structure, and Kennedy is hardly Jamaal Bowman, who unseated Rep. Eliot Engel. He didn't grow up in the housing projects or work as a bartender. Kennedy also possesses the self-awareness to know he'll have to prove to voters that he doesn't believe he's entitled to this seat.
From The Atlantic:
"Literally my entire life, no matter what I've done, people have leveled the criticism of 'You're doing this because you're a Kennedy.' Literally everything," Kennedy told me. "So I hear that. That is up to me to disprove."
Whoever wins the September 1 primary will deserve and need our support. We don't like to speak the name Martha Coakley but she's a reminder that we can't take a Massachusetts Senate seat for granted.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).