I’m just getting to writing up the Senate debate last night. (This is school vacation week and my schedule is not my own.)
And right from the outset, Ed Markey dominated. Joe Kennedy got his licks in — some of them legitimate. But never did Kennedy make an affirmative case for himself, rather than Markey, as the Democratic standard-bearer, or a movement leader, or a preferable alternative in any way.
He failed the Roger Mudd test; he failed the BMG Coakley test, when she told me in late 2009 that the important thing about the “Kennedy seat” was “how much he loved the job.” Yes, I’m sure that Joe Kennedy would love the job. But he hasn’t earned it.
When asked why he wants the seat, Kennedy gives no inspiring answer; apparently it’s because of TRUMP and to be a movement leader. When asked why him instead of Markey, the answer is even more insubstantial. While Kennedy talks about being a movement leader — someday, maybe, if you vote for him — Markey is actually leading a movement, with young climate activists of the Sunrise Movement affectionately calling the author of the Green New Deal “Dad”. Mr. Kennedy: Show, don’t tell.
Indeed, it was a telling moment when, asked why he should keep his seat, Markey had so much substantive ammunition — new proposals, bills authored and passed — that Jim Braude had to cut him off. He was, after all, just answering the question.
It was, on balance, not a great moment for the moderators Braude and Margery Eagan. It was good and apt to ask the candidates about the Weymouth compressor, but not framed around supposed financial conflict of interest, for either candidate. The question is not whether they’re compromised and therefore not really trying, since there’s no evidence of that from their actions; the relevant question is what leverage a US Senator can use to prevent this and future such projects.
Both candidates had very good, heartfelt answers on immigration and Trump’s ICE swat teams. In my estimation. Markey added more detail, including where he took on Trump admin and won on medical deportations. Markey gave a Michael Corleone answer to what he would offer Trump for his wall; and called for admitting many more refugees. To me, the refugee issue is a moral litmus test like few others; and certain prominent Massachusetts politicians have failed it utterly. So this matters, and it is right and brave to lead.
Markey’s worst moments were in response to the People’s Pledge question, where his position is frankly untenable; and when Kennedy noted his Iraq War vote. I can’t blame anyone for voting against Ed, or anyone else, for the Iraq War vote. But in my discernment, I view that vote as a sunk cost: A bad mistake, but not indicative of how he’ll act in the future.
There are no good answers on Afghanistan and anyone who tells you otherwise is kidding themselves. If we leave, the country collapses, the Taliban take over, women are brutally repressed, and the country slides back into a theocratic Dark Age. If we stay, more Americans die for vague policy goals that may or may not at all affect US security.
Some hot-button leftist issues did not fare well from either of these progressive candidates, Neither candidate is terribly warm to Medicare For All; both would apply means testing for free college. I actually agree with the leftists on both counts, but this indicates that Bernie Sanders’ online hordes might do well to broaden their scope beyond just getting a President elected. The President is not the Great Pumpkin, and can’t grant Medicare For All to the children of pure sincerity without Congress’ buy-in. That means big cultural change, which … hasn’t happened yet, and it’s not going to be cured by dank memes and mean-boy podcasts. If Massachusetts’ senators aren’t hot for Medicare For All, it’s not going to happen. So for now, it’s Buttigieigism in the Massachusetts Senate race.
So in conclusion: Did Joe Kennedy provide a “fierce urgency of now” motivation for his candidacy; or, on the other hand, a compelling reason why Markey has to go? Goodness no. He landed some punches on People’s Pledge and Iraq, but put little flesh on the bones of his claim to be a progressive leader.
Did Ed Markey provide compelling reasons for his unique leadership going forward? Absolutely yes. As mentioned, he is indeed leading the youthful climate movement right now — one of the most vital and exciting movements in politics today, and one that might well save the world. #GreenNewDeal is a chant, a cause, a calling card, a reason for hope among young people (and their parents). And his expertise on climate and energy policy, his command of the levers of power, are invaluable in this era, if human civilization is to survive.
Markey’s not perfect, as I stipulate above. But we must use discernment: He is necessary. This is his moment. We need him.
This isn’t close. It’s Ed.