There has been one nagging reality about the upcoming primary for U.S. Senate between Ed Markey and Joe Kennedy III that has not been discussed nearly enough.
Only one of those two candidates actually wants to be a U.S. Senator.
Logistically, the main differences between being a U.S. Representative and a U.S. Senator are just the size of the district and the length of the term. But a legislator in Congress is a legislator in Congress. Ed Markey has been doing it for a while now and he’s quite good at it. He’s still producing as a legislator, from being lead Senate sponsor on the Green New Deal to championing Net Neutrality to drafting legislation with Elizabeth Warren & Bernie Sanders to end qualified immunity in policing, and much more. And he wants to keep legislating, with progressive Massachusetts values animating that legislation. He wants to *be* our U.S. Senator.
Is there anyone in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, regardless of whether you support Markey, JKIII, or neither of them, who doesn’t think that Joe Kennedy III is using the Senate seat as a steppingstone to a future presidential campaign? Anyone? (Yes, as an aside, the prospect of Elizabeth Warren running for President in 2020 was evident while she was running for re-election in 2018; but, she was consistently voting & legislating like Elizabeth Warren throughout, and she wasn’t trying to displace a strong, progressive legislator to attain the office. As such, the situations are not analogous.)
One of the many knocks on JKIII’s candidacy is that he hasn’t clearly articulated *why* he is running. He hasn’t been able to do so because it is impolitic to say, “because it’s easier to run for President as a Senator than as a Representative; and, I don’t want to wait for an open U.S. Senate seat in four or six years because the possibility of facing Ayanna Pressley in a primary is just too daunting.”
Nota bene: even JKIII’s most coherent articulation for a reason why he’s running, that “it’s time for [a vague, nondescript] change” rings hollow because, in 2018, instead of standing with progressive voices of reform & change, like Rachael Rollins for Suffolk County DA (JKIII stood with conservative Greg Henning for the open seat), Ayanna Pressley for Congress (JKIII endorsed the incumbent), and Nika Elugardo for State Representative (JKIII endorsed the incumbent), Joe Kennedy III stood with the status quo candidate. Every. Single. Time. So, “change” just ain’t the reason he’s running, and it’s insultingly disingenuous that he’s exploitatively co-opting such a message.
Running for President is JKIII’s birthright, and the reality is that he wants to waste no time in claiming that birthright. So be it.
Now, ambition on its face is not inherently bad. Right now, in the Veepstakes, Senator Kamala Harris is on the receiving end of “too ambitious” garbage, which, in her case, is most definitely heavily tinged with racist and sexist undertones. Ambition isn’t a bad thing when it’s a motivator for positive action. But this is an apples-to-oranges situation when compared to JKIII.
The problem comes into play when JKIII nakedly uses the Senate seat – and, specifically, his future potential voting record on the floor of the U.S. Senate – as a steppingstone to his actual goal of being President. The result will be a voting record calculated from day one to appeal more to Iowa caucus & New Hampshire primary voters (and, even further from the progressive left, independent voters in Ohio & Florida) four, eight, or twelve years down the line rather than Massachusetts families in 2021.
The outcome of such a calculation can be awfully bad votes taken to appear to be of presidential timber at the time but prove in the long run to be tragic folly. The starkest examples from recent history are future Presidential nominees and then-Senators John Kerry and Hillary Clinton voting in support of the authorization for the use of military force against Iraq, in October 2002. We already see this behavior manifesting in JKIII’s voting record, a stark example of which is his being too accommodating to the Hedge Fund Set, from which he has benefited handsomely fundraising-wise.
I want my U.S. Senator to really, really want to be my U.S. Senator, and to vote in the U.S. Senate without the taint of long-term presidential ambition, with my interests & positions prioritized ahead of the perceived interests & positions of hypothetical future Iowa and Ohio presidential election voters or those who would finance such a future campaign.
One of the two candidates in the primary for U.S. Senate fits that bill. One doesn’t.