Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Caroline Kennedy was more a symbol of what we wanted from politicians

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Originally published on on Fri, 01/23/2009 – 2:28pm

Congratulations to Senator-designate Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY), the replacement selected by New York Gov. David Paterson. Gillibrand comes to the Senate from slightly over one term in the U.S. House. But as we saw from her initial press conference, Gillibrand has a lot of ideas on what to do and where to go as a U.S. Senator.

One person who had been considered for the post is Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, and niece of Robert F. Kennedy, who held that seat from 1965 until his assassination in 1968.

Now, the possible nomination of Caroline Kennedy produced a maelstrom of controversy. She was criticized for a lack of experience and for her, um, well, you know, oratory skills.

There was hope for a possible new Sen. Kennedy for the positive reasons she would be considered: someone who is involved in important societal issues, someone who works hard, and quite frankly, someone who didn’t need the power of being a U.S. Senator.

For too long, we have seen politicians abuse their power for personal gain or disturbed philosophy. And many were looking for a change from the attack mode mentality that has invaded politics.

When I proposed Caroline Kennedy as a possible VP pick last summer (way before others jumped on the bandwagon), I did realize that perhaps I was using Kennedy as a symbol of wanting a new way of doing things. After a vice president such as Dick Cheney, Caroline Kennedy was the un-Cheney.

There definitely was a need to shake things up. And whether you were a Sarah Palin fan or not, she did represent a new way of doing things.

But it’s likely that in examining Kennedy for vice president or for Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat, we were looking past the actual person in wanting to find what we think she represented.

In Caroline Kennedy, we wanted what we thought we saw in her. Despite her lack of experience, it did seem like she could have been a quality senator. But the one lesson Kennedy likely learned is this exchange is that while it’s good to shake things up, you still have to want it.

When thrust into the spotlight, Kennedy didn’t look ready, verbal stumbles aside. At her press conference, Senator-designate Gillibrand looked ready. And voters do like confidence in their political leaders.

The other intriguing critique for Kennedy is that she wasn’t qualified because she lacked experience in elected office. Well, Ted Kaufman (D-DE) was appointed the replacement senator though he had never been elected. And Valerie Jarrett was a name thrown out for Barack Obama’s replacement as Senator, though she had never been elected. Both Kaufman and Jarrett had more official political experience, but Kennedy was singled out for not having been elected.

And Senator-designate Gillibrand has slightly more than two years of elected experience, though she does have other official political experience.

We want our politicians to be new and different, but we want them to have political experience. If the Democratic primary had been purely about resumes, we’d be talking about President Bill Richardson. But it’s about more than resumes; it’s about leadership and purpose. The people selected Obama over John McCain even though he had less experience.

Those that supported Caroline Kennedy felt she could have risen to the top if given the chance. However, Kennedy is proof that we want change — with parameters.


Written by democracysoup

January 23, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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