Ed Markey, the progressive senator from Massachusetts, is — to most people's surprise — facing a potential primary challenge from a slightly less progressive and almost ridiculously inexperienced junior congressman named Kennedy.
That's it. Joe Kennedy, son of former Congressman Joe Kennedy, son of former attorney general. He is "thinking" about running against Markey, according to his post on Facebook.
Not because he disagrees with him on anything, at least anything that he mentions.
Not because he doesn't like him or because he is ineffective. Markey was first elected to the House in 1976 and is one of the best-liked members of the Senate.
No, he's running because he is 38, and there is a very strong bench of Democrats his age in Massachusetts who don't have the audacity and blinding ambition of Little Joe but could very easily beat him for the next open seat.
Kennedy's claim to fame is his State of the Union response. He was really great. I think most people who had worked for a Kennedy (I worked for Teddy) were excited by his potential. But if you've ever seen the state Attorney General Maura Healey in action, you'll see what goes way beyond potential. She's got it.
So, according to press reports and internal polls leaked for obvious reasons, this year may be the best shot Joe has of winning a Senate seat.
And to that I can only say, "So what?"
No one is entitled to a Senate seat, least of all a candidate whose chances rest almost entirely on being born into the right family. And, unlike some of his cousins, he is not and has never been accused of improper sexual conduct, a clean Kennedy. And he has avoided the pull of addiction and wrongdoing that have plagued some of his relatives.
So he's entitled to a seat in the House of Lords? As I recall, we fought a revolution and drafted the Constitution to abolish entitlement by birth.
It must have been Markey's first campaign for the House. He and Barney Frank were the big reformers who had the gumption to demand that members have a staff person to help draft legislation. The Democratic speaker, the legendary Tommy McGee, was furious. But, the story goes, he didn't want to go after Frank, because he didn't want any claim of anti-Semitism. Ed Markey, the Malden Catholic kid, posed no such obstacles for the Irish Catholic speaker.
So he moved Markey's desk into the hallway.
His message: You can tell Ed Markey where to sit, but you can't tell him where to stand.
I think it is wonderful to see a new generation engaging in the political process. New ideas are always needed, if they are good. But experience helps a lot in that institution.
It's not just about being there. It's not just about preparing for a presidential run.
Governing is serious business. Ted Kennedy was a lion of the Senate in part because everyone expected an ego maniac snob and instead found an incredibly hardworking man who treated everyone with respect and cared passionately about the poor. He got things done, and I think many would agree that his most productive years were the latter ones.
As I expect Markey's will be.
As for Kennedy, if he is as talented as people say, more experience will only make him stronger. Many people in Massachusetts love the Kennedys; of course, those are mostly older voters who may not see youth as an absolute advantage. A little-known fact: Being a Democrat in Massachusetts does not guarantee victory. It was a Republican who took Ted Kennedy's seat. And outside of Massachusetts, the caricature of a liberal Kennedy trying to take control of the Senate will decorate direct mail appeals.
If Kennedy really is thinking, as opposed to launching, I hope he will decide that an expensive and divisive primary serves no one's interests but his own.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.