When I first heard that Rep. Joe Kennedy announced his bid to unseat Sen. Ed Markey, you may have overheard my reaction.
If so, I apologize for the expletive piercingly bleated.
As much as I like young Kennedy and hope he has a long career in public service, I’d rather not push a senator as insightful, thoughtful, incisive and thorough as Markey aside.
Kennedy already has an office where he can continue to do much good. If he was challenging either of Kentucky’s two obstructionists, I’d move to Louisville and campaign for him outside Churchill Downs.
Here, however, he is running against an incumbent with the finest environmental record in the Senate, a ranking member on key Senate subcommittees for oversight and science with extensive experience in transportation and infrastructure.
In the shadow of Elizabeth Warren, who brought a national reputation to her first campaign in Massachusetts, and of our neighbor to the north, Bernie Sanders, Markey’s progressive credentials tend to go unnoticed.
But not by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who gained his support as a co-sponsor for the Green New Deal.
At times, Markey’s progressive credentials have been ignored by other progressives so focused on a single issue that they may as well be wearing blinders for all others.
That happened out loud when he was still in the House of Representatives, and it exemplifies the foremost reason why he should remain in the U.S. Senate now.
Markey seemed to be the only member of either chamber in 2010 who understood that the most infamous court decision in American history precipitated the 14th Amendment — which was invoked as a precedent for Citizens United.
He wrote: “The Supreme Court had the horrific judgment to issue the Dred Scott decision, and people rose up to challenge it. Today we're faced with another egregious decision that needs overturning.”
Many liberals condemned the comparison as if it was an equation. Others, who surely knew better, pounced on the opportunity to make it appear an equation.
We all know the danger of quotes taken out of context. Markey’s was smothered in a context that was never intended and in no way deserved.
Result? We miss the point. In this case, that unlimited, anonymous spending in elections is, as Markey nailed it, “a legitimate constitutional crisis.”
When I taught college classes, I’d have welcomed the insertion of the Dred Scott decision of 1857 into the relevance of today, a direct historical link between two U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
With respect for all minorities that have suffered any form of oppression, there can be no proprietary claim on what is an American — an all-American — experience.
If we are so fond of saying that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, then why do we chasten those who bring history’s most urgent lessons to our attention?
And why would we replace Ed Markey, one of the few people willing to do it, in the U.S. Senate?