So I take it y’all have been following the recent outrage in Empire State politics: A woman who’s never held any kind of elected office but happens to have a big, important surname just up and decides she’d like to be the Senator from New York. To accommodate this sudden quasi-royal prerogative, other deserving candidates in the Democratic party are completely shunted aside, including some who’ve spent their entire careers in public service. And, here’s the real kicker: At the end of the day, despite having very little to show for her legislative career, this well-named woman is for some reason made Secretary of State.
Ok, I’m partly kidding. Nonetheless, I find the recent furor over Caroline Kennedy’s possible two-year appointment to the New York Senate to be a bit willfully obtuse about both recent events and the former occupants of that Senate seat. Even the obvious Clinton analogy notwithstanding, lest we forget: Longtime Massachusetts resident Bobby Kennedy was only tangentially qualified for a New York Senate seat in 1964, and even his brother Teddy was basically appointed the first time ’round. And, besides, if Clinton’s perch doesn’t go to Mrs. Kennedy, who then is waiting in the wings? Well, most likely, Andrew Cuomo. A real bootstrapper, that one.
Don’t get me wrong: In principle, I’m dead set against the idea of Senate seats being doled out on the basis of familial connections. It’s an ugly, monarchical habit, and if the seat ends up going to a relatively unknown pol who’s paid their dues (a la Nita Lowey, who got pushed out for Clinton in 2000), all the better. Still, I’m inclined to think charitably of Caroline Kennedy for several reasons other than her name and historic lineage: her early advocacy of Sen. Obama and the good work she’s done for my sister’s organization over the years, to name just two. And, if Gov. Patterson were to end up choosing her…well, ok. I can think of more egregious injustices in this world. To watch the TNR gang throw an extended fit about it, or read Salon hackmeister Joan Walsh (who, by the way, penned an extraordinarily self-serving 2008 retrospective this past week) put down her Clinton pom-poms for a second to tsk-tsk the Kennedy “celebrity” candidacy is, in a word, irritating.