Senator Edward Kennedy, the Liberal Lion of the Senate, has died. Those who have said that an era has ended with his death are right. While it is the case that there are plenty of Kennedys still around, their influence in politics will not be what it has been apart from the youngest of the nine Kennedy children.
Senator Kennedy was committed to the cause of liberalism and championed that cause, although as a master legislator he worked across the aisle in order to get something of what he wanted, while giving the opposition something of what they wanted in the democratic process. Kennedy would make an ideological speech declaring his convictions on the floor of the Senate and then behind the scenes embarked on a pragmatic course of legislation that is so foundational to democracy.
Kennedy was also a very gracious person. He never let partisan arguments get in the way of goodness and kindness. When former press secretary to George W. Bush, the late Tony Snow was suffering with cancer, Kennedy would call Snow regularly to inquire about his health. When a young Republican Senator was welcomed to Capitol Hill with insults from some Democratic Senators, Kennedy warmly welcomed him to his office and showed him around. This was not a "butter them up" game for the late Senator; he was truly an individual who cared about people. There are even some stories that have floated around Capitol Hill that when a constituent asked for help from the Senator, he would, when it was expedient, enlist the aid of a couple of Republican colleagues, backing away allowing them to take the credit for assisting someone in need.
In a day when partisanship means not even associating socially with members of the other party, Kennedy is a reminder to us that democracy works best when it operates passionately yet civilly, and that regardless of one's political views, the opponents are just as concerned about the welfare of the nation as those on your side. It cannot be overstated how much he was respected by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Usually one does not gain respect unless one first shows respect.
As always your comments of tribute are welcome, but the policy of this blog is that when obituaries are posted, criticism or back-handed shots at the recently deceased or even using someone's death to bash members of the opposition will be deleted.
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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian