Losing a paradox.

26 08 2009

Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy,  dead at 77

The so called ‘Lion of the Senate’ was the last of a generation of  powerful politicians from a wealthy and elite family that rode the support of the poor and underprivileged to prominence. He was one of the longest serving members of the Senate. And he was a bit of a paradox.

Conservatives, me included, loved to hate on Ted Kennedy. He often espoused ideas and ideals that were far removed from my political viewpoint. I somewhat grew up with the Kennedy era, remembering the national tragedy of his brother John’s assassination, then the assassination of his brother Robert. Politically the family was on the other side of the stream, and while JFK had some ideas that I today find attractive (and might well lean to be on the conservative side of things), he was always a democrat, and by default the liberal standard barer. Teddy fell right into place following the legacy on the left. But, and it’s hard to admit, he on the not so rare occasion could give fair shake to the right.

Many still held Kennedy’s past against him. The Mary Jo Kapechne tragedy was never adequately explained nor forgiven by many. His womanizing and drinking was the butt of many a joke. His outspokenness and positions on liberal issues rubbed many wrong. He was seen by many of us on the outside as the archetypical liberal villain. Wrongheaded and pompous.  He was a Kennedy, the youngest and in the mind of many the least worthy of the lot. Many of use viewed him as wearing a mantle he didn’t earn or deserve.

But many Republicans, moderate and conservative alike, would often find that Sen. Kennedy would welcome their input on policies and programs he supported and would return the same, giving advice and input, and sometimes support to their own. He was viewed by those from the right that served with him as a consensus maker and a good compromiser. Often, well sometimes at least, joining in as a bipartisan co-sponsor on legislation from the republican side of the aisle. His input was valued by all, and by republicans in the senate he was viewed as the most bipartisan democrat to work with.

Therein the paradox. The liberals have lost a strong voice and leader in the Senate. But so too have the conservatives lost a person that would give their views a listen. Someone that on occasion would offer support. Someone that could be counted on as fair. Someone that was truly open to being bipartisan in a time when that is very much lacking in Washington.

Much of what he supported and pushed won’t be missed by me at all. Some of it ran from asinine to evil. But, bad as I hate to admit it, there might come a time we just might end up missing him too. Fairness isn’t something readily found in Washington politics any more. Even if it was found in a place so unexpected.