I keep getting weepy over the death of Ted Kennedy. It isn't that I'm one of those Kennedy cultists. I happen to come from perhaps the only home in America that had liberal parents in the 1950's and 60's who never forgave John Kennedy for defeating THEIR chosen political deity, Adlai Stevenson. But I keep going back to Kennedy thundering "What is it about working people that drives you so crazy?" In doing so, Kennedy ripped the façade off the empty Republican blather about "ordinary Americans." It's as if someone had the guts to point out that in using the words "kill" and "Obama" in the same sentence, Republicans were advocating the murder of the President. I'm not so sure that had Kennedy still be around, he wouldn't have done that. But I look around and I wonder which of the genteel milquetoasts who populate the Democratic side of the Senate is going to have the guts to do this? Who is out of the pockets of lobbyists enough to take over?
Oh, there are Democrats whose hearts are in the right place; people like Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Barbara Boxer, and a few others. Perhaps Al Franken may rise to the occasion, though Franken is far less liberal than those who demonized him when he was doing the "Oy Oy Oy Show" on Air America would believe. And so far Franken has taken his status as most junior member of the Senate quite seirously, not rocking the boat. It's hard to imagine him becoming the next Paul Wellstone, but it's too early to say.
One candidate for Lion that I'll be watching is Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. Now I have to admit, I was skeptical about Brown for quite a while, after Chuck Schumer and yes, Rahm Emanuel, tag-teamed to strongarm the highly charismatic Paul Hackett
out of the race that put Brown in the Senate. It was an ugly start to Brown's Senate career, given that he'd said he wouldn't run and then changed his mind, with the help of Messrs. Schumer and Emanuel, after Hackett decided to run. But lost in that whole foofarah, which was in many ways an indication of how Emanuel "does business" and how he is so able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, is that Brown had, and still has, a reliably liberal voting record.Brian Buetler at TPM reports on a conversation
he had with Sherrod Brown this week, in which Brown doesn't unequivocally say that he would vote against a bill that's simply a windfall for insurance companies, but he did get to the crux of the matter:
"I don't know for sure if I would support it with out a public option but it would be hard to get there.... We're not going through this to write some namby pamby bill so we can check a box and say we did health care reform."
Now all that said, Sherrod Brown is no Ted Kennedy. For one thing, he comes across as not quite the sharpest knife in the drawer. For another thing, at times he has a disconcerting facial resemblance to the most recent former occupant of the White House. For a third thing, as one wag noted, his speech cadences are often more reminiscent of Billy Mays than of Ted Kennedy:
Perhaps Brown seems like pretty weak soup after the thundering oratory of Ted Kennedy and that of that other warhorse of the Senate, Robert Byrd (cue Barry or someone like him to post a comment about Robert Byrd's long-ago KKK association, which he has long since repudiated; yes, he's that predictable). But I'm not sure they even make orators like that anymore. The question is whether Sherrod Brown or Al Franken or someone else will pick up the mantle of liberalism not as something to be ashamed of, but as something that brought most of the programs that Americans, even though currently shrieking at Town Halls about "Obamacare", like and take for granted.
Labels: Senate, Sherrod Brown