For a supposedly vulnerable incumbent, Ed Markey is taking care of business, racking up endorsements. This is not too surprising for someone who has been in office as long as he has.
But some of his strongest support comes from insurgent progressive voices — not those who line up with what we think of as the Establishment. So maybe we should define “Establishment” more carefully — or maybe it’s not actually an important demarcation! And perhaps Markey is just what he always has been: A remarkably independent, informed, effective, and progressive public servant — one who has amazingly not been swallowed up by the special-interest money machine, nor conventional-wisdom centrism.
Markey brought out a big endorsement to cement his reputation among progressives: Our senior Senator, Presidential candidate, and establishment-poking sensation Elizabeth Warren.
In addition, local environmental leaders Craig Altemose of 350Mass, Deb Pasternak of the Sierra Club MA, and Varshini Prakash of the youthful Sunrise Movement, stirringly came to Markey’s defense:
RECENT NEWS REPORTS have suggested that US Rep. Joe Kennedy III is seriously considering challenging Sen. Ed Markey in the Democratic primary. We are writing to say, in no uncertain terms, and in no disrespect to the congressman, that this is the wrong time for an intra-party challenge.
First off, it has been clear that Markey has been a pivotal leader when it comes to climate change, and arguably has one of the most important roles to play in a very narrow window of time to advance climate action. The next six years will likely determine whether and how our nation rises to the occasion on climate change. Do we mobilize fully to address this challenge head-on through policies like the Green New Deal that Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez filed? Or do we continue on a path of death-by-gradualism, where we fail to provide a bold and comprehensive solution to climate change?
It would be a devastating defeat to a burgeoning climate movement, and a terrible signal to send to our political culture, to take out one of the architects of the Green New Deal.
“A challenger needs to make the case that there’s some issue that hasn’t been addressed and some urgency that’s lacking,” said Jonathan Cohn, chairman of the issues committee of Progressive Massachusetts, a grass-roots advocacy group. If there’s such a case to be made against Markey, he said, “I haven’t heard it.”
So the Pressley/Capuano model, however exciting that was, doesn’t fit this race. This is partly because Kennedy is no Pressley, who was seen as a rising star for years on Boston City Council. But as Gabrielle Gurley also points out, this breakdown isn’t along the normal generational lines. Markey’s leadership on the Green New Deal makes him vital — rather more so than the unapologetic insider Capuano, and decidedly hipper than young Kennedy, who has been slow even to entertain legalized marijuana. If anything, older voters might be prone to vote out of Kennedy nostalgia, while younger voters are motivated by the climate crisis — which has spurred Markey since before many of those voters were born.
Let’s also remember Markey’s leadership on Net Neutrality; on toxics (yes, which are still a really big deal); on countless consumer issues that may not get big headlines but have a noticeable effect on the public — set-top boxes, for example. (How much hay could a D candidate make campaigning against cable companies, or cell phone carriers, e.g.?)
And this is the Catch-22 of Markey’s career: The very strengths that make him an indispensable leader make him fly under the radar politically. He led on these issues and protected the public interest, whether or not anyone was looking; whether or not there was a massive grassroots movement backing him up; whether or not the issue was “sexy” at the time. This is, in fact, what representative democracy is all about: Congressional leaders deal with low-profile issues on behalf of their constituents all the time — but sometimes those low-profile issues blow up in the public consciousness.
On the other hand, there are indeed listless, stale-as-last-week’s-Triscuit establishment figures in our Massachusetts Congressional delegation. They would be Richard Neal and Stephen Lynch. If we think the Democrat-held US House is a disappointment in holding Trump accountable, we’ve got two of Trump’s lawn-boys right in our own backyard. They both have challengers. More on them later.
But for this race, I echo Charlie Pierce’s sentiments:
There is no good policy reason I can see to vote for Joe Kennedy over Ed Markey. Everything else is smoke.