Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Weight of a Name

Give me someone who is not surprised that Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts endorsed Senator Barack Obama over Senator Hilary Clinton in the race to gain the Democratic presidential candidacy and I’ll give you a million dollars.

Well, maybe not quite a million.

Seeing as how I’m a presently not in the financial situation to freely award all those who fall into the aforementioned category with the promised lump sum, I am able to provide in its place something even more valuable- an analysis of why Ted Kennedy’s decision to back Senator Obama was not as obvious as some might have thought.

Flash back to November of 1994 when Edward Kennedy was running for his 6th term as Massachusetts State Senator. Upon serving 5 successful term, one would think that Ted’s experience in conjunction with the Kennedy name would been more than enough to resecure his spot in the Senate, however this particular election failed to be anything but a cakewalk. Who was the opponent responsible for muddying Kennedy’s road to Congress? None other than Mitt Romney, a name not unfamiliar to many, as he has emerged as one of the top Republican contenders in the current presidential race.

Obama and Clinton are eerily reminiscent of Romney and Kennedy in 1994. Back then Romney, much like Obama, had limited experience in the field of politics, as he had been a successful capitalist and entrepreneur, but had never held political office. On the other hand Kennedy, much like Clinton, had grown up on and devoted his entire career to politics. Just as Kennedy had relied upon the popularity of his name and congressional tenure to garner votes, Clinton similarly relies heavily upon the popularity of her surname and the experience she acquired, courtesy of the 8 years her husband served as President, to capture votes. On the other hand Romney’s strategy, like Obama’s, starkly contrasted that of Kennedy, as he capitalized on his “real world” appeal as the “outsider” to connect with voters.

It was during this pivotal race, as Romney stood neck in neck with Kennedy in the polls, that the weight of a name, the weight of the Kennedy name, was called into question. As a new generation of voters flowed in, the old generation of voters who had a memory of Kennedy’s brothers ebbed out, thus opening the window of opportunity for Romney to slide in and connect with voters wide open.
Not nearly as much time has passed since the last Clinton served in the White House, yet it appears that Hillary has found herself in the same position Ted Kennedy was in 14 years ago. While many fondly recall the days in which her spouse served as President many critics, of both old and new generations, speculate Clinton is simply a Washington “insider” who will bring nothing new to the plate of democracy. With this said it would be safe to reasonably expect that Ted Kennedy, a longtime friend of the Clinton's, would sympathize with Hillary and offer her his support.

Although Kennedy was able to prevail in the 1994 Massachusetts Senate Elections, it is unclear as to whether or not his present day contemporary will be able to do so as well. It remains unclear as to what the exact rationale behind Kennedy’s decision to endorse Obama over Clinton was, speculation has freely continued. Perhaps Kennedy, aware of the publics strong desire to bring profound change to American politics, finally took Romney’s words to heart and recognized that it is “a new world out there…a different political era” in which the individuals are looking not for guidance or direction, but for inspiration- the very inspiration his niece Caroline, saw in her father John, and sees once more in Obama.