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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ted Kennedy: The Hollow Champion

While Teddy Kennedy's disasters were vivid, his legislative triumphs, draped in this week's obituaries with respectful homage, were far less colourful. And they were actually devastating for the very constituencies – working people, organised labour –whose champion he claimed to be.

Though the obituarists have glowingly related Kennedy's 46-year stint in the US Senate and, as 'the last liberal', his mastery of the legislative process, they miss the fact that it was out of Kennedy's Senate office that came two momentous bits of legislation that signalled the onset of the neo-liberal era: deregulation of trucking and aviation. They were a disaster for organised labour and the working conditions and pay of people in those industries.

(Kennedy).. helped push through NAFTA, the "free trade" pact that was another body blow to American labour.
....because his mishaps were so dramatic, no one remembers quite how noxious his political triumphs were for those who now mourn him as their lost leader.

You can read the rest of Alexander Cockburn's brilliant piece on the late Teddy Kennedy- and why he was no champion of the working man- here.

UPDATE: Today's Morning Star editorial discusses Kennedy's mixed record on foreign policy issues:

A knee-jerk cold warrior, he initially backed the Vietnam war, supported the 2001 Afghanistan invasion and talked up the threat from Iran in 2002. Of his stance on Israel, we need only quote thuggish far-right Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who called him "a great friend to Israel" who "stood by Israel's side in its most trying times."
But he recanted on Vietnam to become a fierce critic of the war, opposed the Iraq invasion and was honoured by Chile last year as one of the few prominent US politicians who stood firm against Reagan's murderous interventions in Latin America.


David Lindsay said...

In filling his seat, the Democratic Party has the opportunity to send to the Senate, not only an uncompromising supporter of the Kennedy Bill (as the healthcare bill could reasonably now be renamed), but also a figure capable of reaching out to those who, on the same day as they elected both President Obama and a Democratic Congress, made it clear at those same polls that, in Florida and California, they wanted back the country where marriage only ever meant one man and one woman. That, in Colorado, they wanted back the country that did not permit legal discrimination against working-class white men. That, in Missouri and Ohio, they wanted to preserve the country where gambling was not deregulated. And that, from coast to coast, they wanted that country as stalwarts of, especially, the black and Catholic churches.

That opportunity was missed in black and Catholic Illinois and New York, and in Catholic Delaware. Let it not also be missed in Catholic Massachusetts. Not that the new Senator actually has to be either black or a Catholic. But he or she does need to be, in addition to a fully-signed up supporter of Kennedy's economic populism in general and of the Kennedy Bill in particular, a fully-signed up believer (as is President Obama) that marriage is only ever the union of one man and one woman, opponent of discrimination against working-class white men, opponent of deregulated gambling, believer in the public role of the churches, and supporter of Bob Casey's Pregnant Women Support Act (effectively endorsed by the President at Notre Dame).

Anonymous said...

F' that.

WIC, Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave, Mental Health Parity, S-CHIP, minimum wage increases, COBRA, health records privacy protections, voting age of 18, I can't even list them all.

Ted Kennedy was no socialist. Sure.

But damn. I can reel off 3 instances just in the past year when shit Kennedy passed kept my family from being totally fucked. And anyone who works or is without work in America can do the same, whether they know it or not.

jock mctrousers said...

I notice that the 'good' things he's credited with all fall into the 'identity politics' bracket - some token sops to minorities to look like a good guy, and serving capital by turning labour into diverse petitioners fighting for scraps from the table. Divide and rule.

vladimir gagic said...

I respectfully disagree. While he should have done more than a few years in prison for killing a person driving drunk (2nd degree murder if it had happened in Arizona), his legislative accomplishments are the most positive in American history. For an American politician, he was extremely progressive. But even more importantly, he knew how to play the game and get things done. Democrats love JFK, but they forget that while JFK had great ideas, he was not skilled enough of a politician to actually get progressive laws, like the voting rights act, passed. It was LBJ's leadership and political skill that eventually made law out of JFK's ideas. In Ted Kennedy, however, we had the mind and and ideas of JFK combined with the political acumen of LBJ. It's a shame he will not be in the senate at his moment of glory when the American middle class will finally have a fair and equitable health care system. The American middle class will miss Ted Kennedy.

jock mctrousers said...

NEIL - OFF TOPIC BUT IMPORTANT - well, somebody mentioned a disabilities act earlier.


I'd like to draw your attention to this; I suspect you may not know about it, as scarcely anyone else seems to - I only just found out by accident, and I'm one of the people who would be effected (catastrophically) by the removal of DLA. I've suspected it was coming, but it seems to have started, in a typically sneaky New Labour way. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE draw the attention of your readers and all political and labour movement contacts to this. The following is an excerpt from an article on the ' Benefits and Work guides you can trust' website (there is a petition too):

" A government green paper has revealed plans to stop paying disability benefits and hand the cash over to social services instead. The consultation period for the green paper ends on 13 November. If there has been no significant outcry against the plans by then, it seems very likely that whichever party is in power after the next election will seize this opportunity to cut public spending by over a billion pounds a year. Although the actual changes may take years to be brought in, it is what happens between now and November 13th that is likely to seal the fate of disability benefits.

The Shaping the Future of Care Green Paper published by the DWP and the Department of Health on 14th July sets out government plans to get rid of attendance allowance and, depending on public reaction, also leaves the way clear to end the care component of disability living allowance. "

Full article and petition here.

Anonymous said...

If ted kennedy was the best america has to offer...US is in a very bad way..

There are better people (cynthia Mckinney), but they get neutralised by those with money.

And yes, Kennedy was a zionist.


Vladimir Gagic said...

As far as ted kennedy being "the best america had to offer", the American political environment is much more conservative than Europe. Our radical liberals are equivalent to European conservatives. Gingrich was correct when he said America is a center right country, and Ted Kennedy did the best as could be reasonably be expected under those circumstances. I certainly prefer Kennedy's legacy to either Hillary's senate or Clinton's presidential legacy. Maybe Howard Dean will run for the senate. He would be a fitting torch bearer.

Charlie Marks said...

On some news programme a pundit was asked to list Ted's triumphs and could only talk about values....

Sure he may have voted the right way on laws which benefited working people, but as for being a champion in the fullest sense - I am sure he was conscious of what became of his brothers...

Anonymous said...

I concur with your observation that Ted Kennedy wasn't consistent over the course of his Senate career.

However, the Ted Kennedy who was once upon a time propreborn and proderegulation is the Ted Kennedy whose loss I am lamenting. What's worse is that it happened a long time before his death.