Kennedy undeserving of senatorial nomination

January 29, 2009 — by Amalie MacGowan and Uttara Sivaram

In light of Caroline Kennedy’s recent resignation from the senatorial nomination for New York’s then-vacant Senate seat, it’s harder to satirize her situation. In recent weeks, N.Y. Gov. David Paterson named Rep. Kirsten Billibrand as the new senator, ending the drama. Nonetheless, it is tempting to remember her nepotism-laced race for the Senate seat. It was as if we had been told, “Ask not what your country could do for you, but feel free to bug your state governor for a seat in the Senate.”

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late U.S. president, John Kennedy, is a good person who just happened to be born with a last name that could make Joe the Plumber senator of New York. So, she really can’t be blamed for having gone into the race for the senatorial appointment in New York with some confidence.

But all fairness had been thrown into jeopardy, especially after seeing the enormous possibility of her success in getting the seat, still warm after Hillary Clinton’s term. Part of Kennedy’s resignation from the campaign must be credited to some divine intervention, since she was once a frontrunner in the race. This, however, was due to the New York governor’s power to appoint the candidate for the Senate seat, not because of any merit.

If Caroline Kennedy had indeed been appointed, she would be up for re-election only after a full term, and only then do the people of New York get to vote for their favorite candidate. By that time, however, Caroline Kennedy would have been comfortable with her cushy title as “Senator” and so would everyone else. “Change” would not be as fresh in the mind then as it is right now. Kennedy stood out in the pool of candidates like a hockey mom in a political campaign.

With Kennedy, it was all about the family tree. From her venerated father to her uncles, Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and the late Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the Kennedy name is iconic.

Until recently, Caroline Kennedy has never seemed interested in politics. Her niche has been in the education system, working with the New York public schools. Through a large fundraising event, she raised $2 million in the hopes of galvanizing new reforms that she could test in the school workplace. Soon, she had raised $70 million for a new cause—an academy to train principals open to reforming schools in lower-income areas, according to a biography of Kennedy in The New York Times. Her resume includes working with her uncle in a selection committee in Harvard, but not one political endeavor can be found in her file. Well, unless following President Barack Obama around with pom-poms counts.

No, Kennedy hadn’t even gotten the minimum amount of political exposure one needs for the Senate. She certainly had the connections in D.C. and a phonebook enviable by the White House itself, but short of speed dialing relatives for advice, Kennedy had nothing. Considering her for Senate was like making Jenna and Barbara Bush senators of Texas and Georgia, respectively. Two spots in the Congress could be reserved for Malia and Sasha Obama, who will make lovely Congresswomen someday, to be sure. And while we’re at it, a game show could be created—Who Wants to be A Senator? The possibilities are endless and get progressively more insane. The well-intentioned Caroline Kennedy had, unfortunately, put us on a conveyer belt to madness.

Thankfully, the incensed population of upstate New York stood in the way of Kennedy’s selection; they believed that Caroline Kennedy was only a representation of elitist New York City. Feeling that Kennedy does not know the state well enough or many of its cities as well as other candidates, the “up-staters” pressed for alternate candidates. Since Kennedy has never been in a public office, jumping from attorney to senator could have been quite a climb.

It isn’t difficult to say whether Kennedy deserved the Senate seat. The Founding Fathers built this nation from the ground up, promoting democracy as fiercely as they avoided monarchy. So unless we want to bring back the old regime, Clinton to little Clinton, Obama to baby Obama, and Bush II to Bush III (God forbid), let democracy and fair elections live on.

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