If you want to talk Democratic ideas, look no further than the Kennedy clan. They tend to be dismissed as People Magazine American Royalty, but that says more about our media than about them. With Senator Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy having endorsed Barack Obama, and with the Clinton campaign reminding voters that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend have already endorsed Hillary, the Kennedy family is back making headlines. That can only be a good thing.
The Clintons deserve credit for having made our national health care crisis a national issue, in the 1990s. Of course, their plan was a byzantine mess, and it didn’t go nearly far enough. For that matter, none of the current leading Democratic candidates advocate single-payer national health care, so they’re all offering but different flavors of incrementalism. No surprise. As I keep writing, despite the campaign rhetoric, they are all basically traditional Democratic centrists. Of course, as I also keep writing, even as the Democratic candidates approach the major issues with nothing revolutionary, the Republican candidates rarely even notice there are issues to approach. We can argue over the nuances of the incrementalist approaches of Senators Clinton, Edwards, and Obama, but if you want a good, cynical laugh, take a look at the Republican candidates’ approaches. But if you want to talk about vision and leadership on health care, look no further than Senator Kennedy. He wrote a book about it. In 1972. He’s been advocating for National Health Insurance since the 1970s. Among many other issues on which he has consistently been ahead of the times, he’s also been advocating for clean, renewable energy sources, since the 1970s. In our government, there is no greater champion for people, the environment, and innovative ideas than Senator Kennedy. And that has been the case for decades.
I’m also a particular fan of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. I’ve long hoped he’d get involved in electoral politics, but I also understand the many and complex reasons for his not doing so. But my admiration of Kennedy has nothing to do with his father or his family; it has everything to do with his ideas. No one better articulates the rationale for environmentalism. The most common criticism of environmentalism is that it’s bad for the economy, and fundamentally opposed to capitalism. In a 2005 speech at the Sierra Club’s National Convention, Kennedy turned that around. Environmentalism is not only not bad for capitalism, it is a means of rescuing true free-market capitalism.