Remember or Forget Ted Kennedy with One Word: Bipartisanship

Ted Kennedy was Known for his Ability to Cross Party Lines and Make Crucial Deals

August 26, 2009 Edward (Ted) Kennedy, labeled by President Barack Obama as the greatest senator of our lifetime, died.  Now that the senator has passed away how will Washington continue without one of its greatest leaders who served as Massachusetts Senator for nearly five decades: how will Washington remember the late Ted Kennedy?

The amazing quality about Senator Kennedy’s imprint on politics in Washington from a public relations vantage point is that it can be summed up in one word: bipartisanship (granted people are generous enough to omit the obvious answer liberal). The trouble is from a political standpoint in 2009 the word is becoming less significant or possible to enact despite it being one of the senator’s greatest attributes.

Statements released from Democrats and Republicans, liberal and conservative alike, assert that what made Senator Kennedy so successful and widely respected was his ability to reach across the aisle in order to strike a deal for the benefit of the American people. In his article analyzing the impact of Senator Kennedy, Ronald Brownstein contends, “Solutions are more durable when the hands that craft them represent a broad range of viewpoints, both inside and outside of Congress” but today we are less likely to see this cooperation that garners success.

Ted Kennedy was likely to make deals with the likes of Ronald Regan, Orin Hatch and John McCain if that deal meant he could give workers better benefits, AIDS patients help, and children from lower incomes access to healthcare.

Yet, the word bipartisanship has a different connation today. In today’s politics bipartisanship means disloyalty to one’s party, and the inability to take a stance. With the bickering that ensues among parties today Robert Kuttner admits that this goal of bipartisanship and the crutch of Kennedy’s legacy is hard to understand, “people who never saw [Kennedy] in action will not grasp how it was possible for a senator to be simultaneously a principled liberal, a superb tactician, as well a bipartisan force who could befriend conservative Republicans to work for public purposes”.   

Barack Obama‘s presidential goal for bipartisanship influenced by the Massachusetts senator was seen as highly improbably from the beginning because it would require cooperation amongst Democrats and Republicans. Although cross party nominations were made, the healthcare debate is suggesting that President Obama’s plan to build bipartisanship is harder than expected. Just weeks ago before the death of Kennedy, getting the healthcare plan approved would mean Democrats had to abandon the principle of bipartisanship. However, now that bipartisanship represents the legacy of the late Senator Ted Kennedy perhaps there will be a new resurging interest in reaching across the aisle to honor one of America’s great politicians and also allow all political parties to become a part decisions that affect the American people.

Articles Consulted

“Why Ted Kennedy Was the Last of His Kind” by Ronald Brownstein

“Ted Kennedy: A Liberals Bipartisan” by Robert Kuttner

“John McCain Says Barack Obama Flunks Bipartisanship” by Mike Allen and Carol Lee


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