Senator Ted Kennedy died shortly before midnight Tuesday evening as a result of his battle with brain cancer. Teddy was surely a flawed man with what some would argue is a unpardonable stain on his memory. But even if you believe that, there is no argument the man overcame those flaws to serve our country and rack up a list of legislative accomplishments that will likely never be equaled.
There are many on the right who may feel good riddance at his passing, but they should not. Ted Kennedy raised more money for the Republican party than any other figure. As Pat Buchanan just brought up on tv this morning: How many Republican elected Senators and Congressmen owe their election and fundraising to saying, "if my opponent wins, Ted Kennedy and his buddies will be running the country." A lot.
Kennedy was always haunted, and most likely will continue to be haunted, by Chappaquiddick. There was a time when it appeared he was destined for the White House. If not by fate, then surely by succession. But those aspirations died alongside Mary Jo Kopechne in a tidal channel in Massachusetts.
No, Teddy never became President. But there is an argument to be made that what he did become has left a more lasting impression on the country than he could have as President. Senator Kennedy dies as one of the greatest American legislators of all time. As a Time article points out:
(Kennedy) had 46 working years in Congress, time enough to leave his imprint on
everything from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to the Edward M. Kennedy Serve
America Act of 2009, a law that expands support for national community-service
programs. Over the years, Kennedy was a force behind the Freedom of Information
Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Americans with Disabilities
Act. He helped Soviet dissidents and fought apartheid. Above all, he conducted a
four-decade crusade for universal health coverage, a poignant one toward the end
as the country watched a struggle with a brain tumor. But along the way, he
vastly expanded the network of neighborhood clinics, virtually invented the
COBRA system for portable insurance and helped create the laws that provide
Medicare prescriptions and family leave.
Kennedy may have passed before seeing one of his lifetime goals, universal healthcare, not yet reached. But he did get to see the culmination of a lifetime of civil rights work realized: the election of President Obama. Remember, Kennedy was the first truly big name in the party to throw is support behind Obama. It is fitting he got to see that hurdle cleared in his lifetime.
As that Time article asks, does it matter that Kennedy himself was never president? "The Romans understood, there can be Emperors of no consequence — and Senators whose legacies are carved in stone."
Kennedy's legacy will long be remembered in the words of his 1980 convention speech: "the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."
RIP, Senator Kennedy.