Kennedy’s politics moved the nation to the left

Edward M. Kennedy may have been the Senate’s last liberal.

Oh, there are others in the Senate who would support the same policies – universal health care and expanded civil rights and a higher minimum wage. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Barbara Boxer of California and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-described socialist, can usually be counted on to uphold the standards of the left.

But most on the left have abandoned the word “liberal” for the term “progressive,” an effort to escape the perverted and seamy notions that rightwing talk show hosts have attached to the L word. Kennedy, though, was always a proud liberal.

And why not? Many of the policies he supported during his long legislative career are now taken for granted as touchstones of American political and cultural life.

After Barack Obama’s election – aided by Kennedy’s endorsement during the Democratic primaries – Republicans rushed to reassure themselves by taking to the airwaves and newspaper pages to declare that the country remained essentially conservative. That’s also the default position of the Washington media establishment, as demonstrated by a Newsweek piece last November that described the country as “center-right.”

There is no doubt more people use the word “conservative” to describe their leanings than use the word “liberal.” However, those descriptions may not reveal much about which policies those voters would support, as the angry town hall protests have borne out: How many Medicare beneficiaries have turned up to insist that they don’t want the government involved in their health care?

While the Republican Party found that they could always rely on Kennedy as their favorite bogey-man— reaping a fundraising bonanza from the mere use of his name – there can be no denying that the country moved much closer to Kennedy’s politics over his four-decades-plus in the Senate. Conservatives may have won the battle for idiom, but Kennedy and like-minded liberals won many of the battles for actual policy.

Do you remember when sports programs at large colleges and universities catered almost exclusively to men? I do. Now that female athletes excel on the playing field, few of us can imagine a nation that would exclude women from college athletic scholarships. In 1972, Kennedy helped to push through Title IX, which fostered that change in collegiate athletics.

Before that, Kennedy championed a cause which was arguably even more significant: The Immigration Act of 1965, which ended an immigration policy that automatically favored those of northern European descent. Last year, Boston Globe reporter Peter Canellos wrote: “(The act’s) impact . . .rivals the Voting Rights Act. . .It transformed a nation 85 percent white in 1965 into one that’s one-third minority today, and on track for a nonwhite majority by 2042.”

Kennedy supported sanctions against a South Africa stubbornly clinging to apartheid; he supported increased federal funding to combat HAV/AIDS; he was a sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which banned discrimination against the handicapped. Who would now argue for continuing apartheid? Who would deny access to public buildings to the wheelchair-bound?

As he said, the cause of his life was increasing access to health care, which he began working on in the 1960s. Even though he never saw the comprehensive reform he wanted, he made significant inroads toward universal access. Kennedy championed the program which provides low-cost health insurance to the children of working-class parents, and most Republicans now support it.

Kennedy’s harshest critics believe that nothing should be remembered but his recklessness, irresponsibility and cowardice in the 1969 death of Mary Jo Kopechne. They’re wrong. Kennedy’s significant failings should certainly be counted in the public record. But any fair accounting would also tally his remarkable – and remarkably liberal –legislative achievements.

33 comments Add your comment

I Report/ Vast White Wing Conspirator (-: You Whine )-:

August 29th, 2009
7:00 am

He sure did, our world educational ranking is now 23rd compared to 4th, there are hundreds of times as many murders of unborn children, the number of fatherless children has skyrocketed, drug use is rampant, crime has surged, blight is a common feature in any large US city, the federal deficit is the next bubble to burst, etc, etc, etc.

Only a lib could be proud.


August 29th, 2009
7:07 am

Chavez and Castro will certainly miss him.


August 29th, 2009
8:05 am

“Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Barbara Boxer of California and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-described socialist, can usually be counted on to uphold the standards of the left.”

Standards of the left?

Owned by Trial Lawyers, I wasn’t aware that the left had standards.

Also, Ms. Tucker, you need to refer to Boxer as SENATOR Boxer. She worked hard for that position.


August 29th, 2009
8:30 am

“But most on the left have abandoned the word “liberal” for the term “progressive,” an effort to escape the perverted and seamy notions that rightwing talk show hosts have attached to the L word. ”

You mean like the perverted and seamy notions that leftwing pundits like Tucker have attached to the word “conservative?”

Tucker’s hypocrisy is a joke. Does she really think she is any different than the “rightwing talks show hosts?”

Michael H. Smith

August 29th, 2009
9:45 am

Observing an honorable old adage on this one, Ms. Tucker. If you can’t say something good about someone, then don’t say anything.


August 29th, 2009
4:01 pm

Personally, I’m glad he’s gone. Ted Kennedy and O.J. Simpson are the only people that completely got away with murder. May they both burn in hell.

Constructive Feedback

August 29th, 2009
4:36 pm

Ms Tucker: I notice that as people recount the value of Ted Kennedy the word “The Least Of These” is frequently used. Joseph Lowery used it during an interview on the local television news on the day Kennedy died.

I have a question for you, Ms Tucker – At what point will YOU hear the word “The Least Of These” applied to Black people and YOU hear it as an insult? Not because there are poverty has been eliminated (it never will be) but because you are able to point to the array of Black leadership of our people who can point to the infrastructure that they have created to allow our people to to become the “Un-Lease Of These”, having abandoned the policies that make us “In Receipt of Benefit” after seeing the clear differences between these two strategies.


August 29th, 2009
7:24 pm


Cynthia who?


August 29th, 2009
9:13 pm

I’m a US born citizen and part of the nation and he didn’t move me to the left. What a public servant…I mean career politician who bled those in our country who had initiative.


August 29th, 2009
11:41 pm

If you want to know what’s truly wrong with the country, you pretty much just need to look at opinion blogs. Most of the posters love to hide behind that anonymity and say some of the stupidest stuff on the planet. I mean being glad that a guy is dead? Seen that on numerous blogs. The scare tactics of socialism (how actually afraid are people of Medicare and Social Security, both socialist programs?) and communism pop up all the time. Racism is always a fun topic, as are homophobia and just plain stupidity.

Just think about Strom Thurmond and Ted Kennedy for a moment. These two men, both flawed in their own ways, served our country in Congress for half a century each. Kennedy had the added factor of watching his three older brothers die before him, two from assassins. They both obviously did a lot of good to get re-elected so many times. Even the limited voters we have won’t re-elect someone who is totally worthless.

wake up

August 30th, 2009
4:24 am

Some one Please reply to me with some actual fact based rebuttal and not MORE NAME CALLING. END THIS LEFT OR RIGHT BULL CRAP..ITS ALL THE SAME AGENDA…OBAMA AND BUSH ARE BOTH PUPPETS FOR THE CORPORATE ELITE….TYRANNY IS BIPARTISAN..FACE THE FACTS…UNPLUG YOUR TV…ITS ALL HIGH TECH PROPAGANDA. Anyone that thinks Obama or Bush was looking out for YOUR best interests are mistaken. you think its OK to have a self proclaimed communist i.e Van Jones, in the white house regardless of how many years ago he stated that FACT. OR maybe you think its OK to have a man who CO-AUTHORED a book called ECOSCIENCE i.e John Holdren, which the book states forced population laws, forced abortions,adding a chemical that would sterilize humans to drinking water or to staple foods, and of course a Global Economy with a “Planetary Regime” who also is advising our president Than You are the CRAZY ones!. WAKE UP! Dont take my word or anyone elses for it read the book, ITS FACT. Your living in a false reality if you do not see where our country is going. ALSO Beck has not even mentioned the Leverage and Power the PRIVATE off shore bankers i.e Rothschild, Rockefellers of the Federal Reserve have on our government and many others. Our Federal Reserve is NOT FEDERAL! WAKE UP!! THE FED IS WHAT IS CAUSING ALL OUR PROBLEMS SUPPORT THE AUDIT THE FED BILL!!!Research it for yourself……

[...] there ever be another Senator proud to call himself a “Liberal”? Kennedy’s death leaves a void that won’t be filled Edward M. Kennedy may have been the Senate’s last [...]

Michael H. Smith

August 30th, 2009
8:31 am

wake up

August 30th, 2009
4:24 am

You forgot to add Obumer’s FCC Diversity Officer Mark Lloyd into the mix. This guy praises what Hugo Chavez did to the free press and the freedom of speech in Venezuela.
Keep in mind the Cyber-security bill in the Senate.


The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

August 30th, 2009
8:40 am

“Perverted and seamy” is an apt description of most right-wing talk show hosts: Rush and his oxy addiction and illegal drug purchases, his Viagra for sex tourist trips to the Dominican; O’Reilly and his falafel; one ‘Neal B.’ and the Sugarloaf Madame, as examples.

Of course, these clowns of the airwaves and Fox appeal to the “intellectually challenged” and ignorant; the folks with below average intellectual capacity and a disdain for learning and education. 50% of Americans have below-average intelligence and education (by definition, I know this fact will leave many AJC bloggers scratching their pinheads), and, as Whiner reminds us, the so-called Silent Majority’s disdain for education since the 1960s has made ‘average’ in this country ‘low’ for the world.

There are, unfortunately, no intelligent or education requirements for voting, so our country has been saddled with a tyranny of the stupid, where human detritus such as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are considered the great minds of the GOP…

The conservatives I grew up with were – by and large – sober, intelligent folks. Self-identified conservatives nowadays are angry loud-mouthed rabble, the lowest of the low.

The tea-bagging screamers and whiners at the town hall meetings look like the extras from Deliverance.

Michael H. Smith

August 30th, 2009
9:26 am

There are, unfortunately, no intelligent or education requirements for voting, so our country has been saddled with a tyranny of the stupid

It is good to see the original trash shares near-exactly the same thoughts once expressed by talk radio’s ‘Neal B’.

Michael H. Smith

August 30th, 2009
9:37 am

Mark Lloyd, chief diversity officer of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), said at a conference:

In Venezuela, with Chavez, really an incredible revolution, a democratic revolution to begin to put in place saying that we are going to have impact on the people of Venezuela. The property owners and the folks who were then controlling the media in Venezuela rebelled [...] folks here in the U.S. government worked to oust him and came back and had another revolution and Chavez then started to take seriously the media in this country.


August 30th, 2009
9:43 am

previous posters have basically taken care of this silly woman, but i did want to chime in as one more voice: Cynthia, you’ve got the intellectual ability of a snow pea. Only a liberal could be proud of this legacy….

Angela Amerson

August 30th, 2009
11:48 am

Please be forthcoming of how the pre-1965 Immigration policy favored northern European descent. It’s intent was not favoritism but to make sure people had a job or skill and could speak English before coming here. This was to keep the American taxpayer from having an undue burden of taking care of people immigrating here. At this point in time I feel many would like to go back to this policy to protect our failing economy and welfare system from further stress.

dan berriman

August 30th, 2009
11:53 am

When it came to voicing his opinion about Apartheid in my country South Africa, old Teddy had a lot to say, none of it encouraging to the white “racist” minority. But over the last 14yrs since the ANC has been in control of things they have applied the same restrictive laws retributively against their fellow white South Africa brothers, and what did we hear from Ted, nothing, nada, a deathly silence. It seems as if Liberalism only makes you want to see what you want to see. We are all guilty of race discrimination white and black alike. Try reading my latest book details of which you can get on my website www dot toomuchbaggageforthepromisedland dot ewebsite dot com for a fuller revelation of this sad fact.


August 30th, 2009
1:08 pm

She’s Superficial Synthia. She’ll protect you from yourself.
Superficial Synthia, knows what’s best for everyone.
From her peeeerch on high, she tells us alllll
What’s going on. And How it should be.
She’s Superrrrficial Synthia. Know what’s best for everyone.
Superficial Synthia. she’ll protect you from yourself.
She’s Superrrrfiicial SYNTIAAAAAA!!!!!!!1

WAkE up

August 30th, 2009
1:11 pm

YeaH i know Michael…Why wouldnt you want your government to just be able to take over the internet when ever they deem seem fit?? haHA . I mean Michale, We need a Civilian Military Force just as well funded as National Military Too? Why Wouldnt we? Even though there is no credible threat at home. However, it does make sense when you have COMMUNIST i.e van jones, I mean , “progressives”, and Eugenicist i.e Holdren , SURROUNDING your PRESIDENT. I am Sure Tim Geithner , US Treasury Secretary, will help out the common people because he was chairman for the NY FEDERAL RESERVE. People who dont know anything about our nice little FEDERAL RESERVE really need to WAKE UP. ITS A PRIVATE CENTRALIZED BANK WHO PRINTS OUR COUNTRIES MONEY! THEY ARE NOT A FEDERAL AT ALL. NO TRANSPARENCY. hmmmm its ironic too, the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, one of its main conditions to transform to communism is a Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly. WE HAVE THAT HERE! WAKE UP! Research THE FED IT IS UN-CONSTITUTIONAL, END IT!


August 30th, 2009
1:15 pm

Remember that column about black children playing on the White House lawn and how that would catalyze a new transcendent era in race relations. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH. Oh so that’s SO POWERFUL. SO PROGRESSIVE. What a buffoonish naive irrelevant notion. Nobody gives a crap. They got their own worries and aspirations and they aint your’s.


August 30th, 2009
1:17 pm

Nancy Pelois -

Thomas Casey

August 30th, 2009
1:20 pm

As a US Immigration officer from 1972-94, I can tell you that the 1965 Act was a cluster. It brought in large numbers of unskilled and semiskilled people, many of whom brought little to this country. Now, if you want to skew the makeup of this country, fine, do so–but do it knowing what you are up to. In this case, Kennedy and Congress essentially did it on their own.

In many ways, this country is a lot worse than it was in 1965, and this is one reason why. Kennedy was like Rousseau–he wanted to tell everyone else how to live but his own life was a mess.

I remember when JFK got elected in 1960–and I have had enough of Kennedys.


August 30th, 2009
1:24 pm

Nancy Pelosi – THE PROGRESSIVE HEROINE is blocking HR1202 to audit the Fed. Why is she doing that Cynthia? Can you please investigate that Cynthia. Is she worried about the Fed’s independence of operation Cynthia? Do you have an opinion on this Cynthia? A judge just ruled in favor of Bloomberg ordering the Fed to release information about the bailout money and who got it but the Fed does not want to release this. But it’s “our” money Cynthia.

How ’bout those Afghanistan deaths Cynthia. Soldiers doing their jobs defending the country, right Cynthia? Good thing since the Taliban Towelheads are such a threat to the little ol USA.
What do you think about this Cynthia? Are you scared of the Taliban towelheads Cynthia?

John in Virginia

August 30th, 2009
3:52 pm

What’s wrong with these Georgia bloggers? In all my opinion-blog reading, I’ve never seen such hateful drivel, sometimes sickeningly condescending, tinged quite often with sexism and racism. What’s all this crap from Fred – Cynthia this, Cynthia that?

The guy is dead. The point of the article is to focus on the good he did. If you don’t agree, you’re probably not a liberal. I am, and proud of it. This country is so much better off for all of his hard work. So right-wingers: go back to the Fox News echo chamber and wallow in your own empty-headed know-nothing paradise if you like. Lay off Ted Kennedy for a few days, now that he’s no longer there to defend himself. I’m sure you’ll all find another target for your bullying.


August 30th, 2009
4:41 pm


Obviously, you have not been paying close attention to our judicial system.

Carter is a Fool

August 30th, 2009
7:55 pm

He had a very thin record of accomplishment. He should have spent most of the last 40 years in JAIL for homicide and leaving the scene of an accident. I heard one person at his eulogy try to make him sound good. He said that Teddy had a great sense of humor and enjoyed Chappaquiddick. That fact, if true, makes him seem a monster not a human. To laugh at the death he caused is not funny.

The country is not leaning more to the left, but it has drifted that way after the 8 year assault on President Bush by hacks like you and Bookman. That assault plus a well oiled con by Acorn took the election this year. McCain was no great choice to follow a disappointing President Bush, but clearly a better choice than the inexperienced PresBO in office.

It is just the type of article we would expect from you. Listing left with a clouded vision seen through the rose colored glasses you wear with a vision of the all powerful government taking care of everyone and righting every perceived wrong by those who create the jobs and drive our economy to the benefit of all.

No Child allowed to Succeed is the brain child of this guy and George Bush. Both should be remembered for this disastrous legislation that has the US school system producing functional intellectual idiots who often vote for the same politicians who started this disaster.


August 30th, 2009
10:30 pm

John In Virginia, were just rednecks here in GA. Not gay and intellectual like you in Virginia. Plus, Cynthia Tucker don’t know squat about shat.

[...] Cynthia Tucker: Kennedy’s politics moved the nation to the left. [...]

John in Virginia

August 31st, 2009
5:00 pm

Well Fred,

Y’all do look like rednecks, straight out of the cast of Deliverance. And you personally really do sound like an idiot. Hey, I just had an idea: Smart “intellectuals,” why don’t you just sit back and let people with the IQ’s of tree frogs run this country, because IDIOTS are the only real Americans! Don’t ever trust anyone with half a brain!!

Oh wait a minute – we already tried that for 8 years with Dubya. Didn’t work out so good, huh?

You’re not making a good case for your home state, Freddy boy.

David in Chelsea, MA

August 31st, 2009
7:11 pm

It’s pretty pathetic how many conservative politicians practice phony populism and end up with a right-wing base that despises people who actually go to colleges and universities.

Imagine hanging your hat on such a bunch of idiots.

Bizarre. Just….bizarre. But, what else do you expect from conservatives?

Guytano Parks

September 11th, 2009
12:11 am

This country is made up of an extremely diverse mix of people with extremely varying degrees of education, enlightenment, morals, standards, beliefs, likes, dislikes, biases, agendas, talents, passions, apathies…etc…This will never change. All we can do is continue to live, try to carve out a happy niche for ourselves and vote for who we believe to be the best candidate. Remember that as staunchly as you fight for and defend your position, there are many, many others with different viewpoints; this is the USA, a large melting pot. Campaigning happens. Voting occurs; the majority rules. Someone wins, someone loses; accept and respect the outcome.