Is America’s allegiance to Camelot finally over? Did Scott Brown’s election to Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat finally break the spell?
Since the shots rang out in Dallas on November 22, 1963, many Americans — and most members of my generation, the so-called Baby Boomers — have been in thrall to the Kennedy mystique. As The Byrds sang less than two years later, “He never knew my name / Though I never met him / I knew him just the same … He was a friend of mine.”
For the Kennedy family itself, it’s been all downhill ever since. JFK’s brother Bobby, perhaps smarter but less politically savvy, was himself gunned down in 1968, while Teddy, the least of the Kennedy brothers, lingered long in the U.S. Senate but fell far short in his one bid for the White House. His legislative “accomplishments” in a 46-year Senate career are a mixed bag to all but his most sycophantic followers.
The subsequent generations of Kennedys have offered even less, politically speaking.
But whether it was his charge to “ask not what your country can do for you” or the youthful “vigah” that he brought to the Oval Office after eight successful but stolid years of Dwight D. Eisenhower, JFK inspired the Baby Boomers to political activism and public service.
Of course, the Boomers who rose to the nation’s highest office — Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — have scarcely done us proud. Instead, they’ve highlighted our generation’s traits of self-centeredness and self-righteousness. Our parents did their best for us, following Dr. Spock religiously, and, man, were we spoiled.
Sadly, JFK’s death also inspired in us the cynical world view that “they” will cut down our leaders if “they” feel threatened. America has never been the same since that day in November 46 years ago. Yet while his presidential achievements pale in comparison to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s, Kennedy has been the iconic representation of the youthful, hip Democratic Party ever since. No more Harry Trumans for this crowd.
With the death of “The Lion of the Senate,” the moniker with which the political Left hoped to enshrine the late Edward M. Kennedy, however, the direct fraternal line to that day in 1963 was severed forever. Hopeful they could turn another Kennedy’s death into a political victory, Democrats recalled that “the cause of [the senator’s] life” was national health care reform and vowed to pass such a plan as one more way to honor him.
A funny thing happened on the way to universal health care, though. As congressional Democrats wheeled and dealed in an effort to produce a health care plan a majority of them could agree on, America got angrier and angrier. They even got mad in Massachusetts.
Capitalizing on that anger was a 50-year-old Republican state senator from Wrentham, a guy named Scott Brown who drove a pickup truck. For those who failed to notice the slam Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue put on Ted Kennedy’s True Compass on the bestselling book charts, his come-from-far-behind election to Kennedy’s old Senate seat came as quite a shock.
Think about that for a minute: A Republican nobody defeated the Democratic state attorney general in Massachusetts to capture the seat held by one of the original Kennedy brothers for nearly half a century, and the primary reason he won was the issue that Senator Kennedy himself called “the cause of my life.”
Is Camelot over at last? Some nervous Republicans tried to declare Reaganism over just after the November 2008 elections, yet I suspect there’s still a lot of life left in the old Gipper. But with a post-Baby Boomer in the White House and others of his generation in key positions of power, I suspect the Kennedy era has passed. God rest its soul.