Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

I saw Ted Kennedy once.

It was the summer of 1990 and I was working in DC as a congressional intern for my representative. For some reason, I and several other interns went to the Capitol Rotunda where a ceremony was taking place: the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act. As we stood behind a rope, I could see Kennedy walking up and chatting with other Representatives and Senators. I remember being excited at seeing the Senator. Here was a man whose brother was the President, his last name was attached to one the greatest political families in the nation.

When I woke up this morning to the news that Ted Kennedy has succumb to the brain cancer he fought, I felt a deep sense of sadness, even though I disagreed with him. They don't make them like him anymore.

Make no mistake, Kennedy was a staunch liberal and represented the left wing of the Democratic Party. But what was interesting is that even though he had strong opinions and passions, he was able to reach across the isle and work with Republicans to get things done. It seems like he was always working with the likes of Republican Senators like Orin Hatch or John McCain on some bill or another.

Kennedy is the one of the last of a long line of statesman who showed that one can have strong convictions and also cut a deal. That's something that is becoming a lost art these days, as Ronald Brownstein notes in an article about Kennedy's passing. We live in an age where we have convictions, but not much else. Cutting a deal is seen as something akin to treason.

Kennedy, and to some extent, John McCain, reminded us that being an elected official means having to actually govern. Governing means that you have to work with those that might disagree with you and trying to come to some solution that all sides can work with.

Today's political climate is one where we are stuck in a permanent campaign mode. Blogs, special interests groups and talk show hosts do all they can to paint the other side as monsters bent on destroying all that they hold dear.

In doing this, we ignore the issues that really matter; whether that is health care reform, climate change or social security reform. Politics today is all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Kennedy's passing is not just the death of a figure who made an impact in American life; it is slow death of a climate where people, liberals and conservatives were more interested in finding solutions that in being right.

So, I mourn the death of the "Lion." Senator, know that one Republican thinks the world is a lot less brighter with you not in it.

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