I am in no way inclined to sentimentality about our losses. I will not succumb to the American sugar of extravagant farewells–I’ll leave that to Larry King and his ilk. Nor shall I engage in the Washingtonian hand washing in the manner of Pontius Pilate–with those rhetorical sophistries that proclaim that its sad that the last good man in the world is dead. When I hear John McCain or Joe Lieberman on the irreplaceable nature of Senator Kennedy I want to throw up. What Edward M. Kennedy accomplished was a good, progressive Irish Catholic conscience. What Edward M. Kennedy achieved was to live daily in accord with the Golden Rule in act and deed. Its safe to say that the G.R. doesn’t get practiced much in Washington anymore, nor, for that matter do we find it often enough in churches.
There will be others who persist in public service; who overcome personal flaws and work tirelessly on behalf of those who are less fortunate; who endure a lifetime of slurs and derision and yet hold firm to communitarian values; who risk assassination for defending the civil rights and liberties of others; who possess enough emotional intelligence to negotiate with vandals and jackals; who inspire others by their tireless affirmation of liberty and of human dignity. There will be others. I shall say that its not likely that Senator Kennedy’s descendants in public service will find places in the Senate or the House. Those institutions are now largely dead and future progressives will have to lead from the pulpits of business and law and education and the arts and non-profit philanthropies. Perhaps one day the Senate will return to doing the people’s work. But not in our time. Not in this age of the radio controlled lobbying vultures who have taken the place of our elected officials. It is worth noting that Edward M. Kennedy was electable and able to do the people’s work because of his family name and his loyal electorate in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I suspect that Ted Kennedy was more than the last lion. He was the last man who couldn’t be bought.