Following Hillary Clinton’s confirmation as Secretary of State, Caroline Kennedy will be appointed as New York’s new U.S. Senator. Kennedy’s anticipated selection has bothered some progressives, who see it as yet another example of wealthy, political insiders exhibiting a sense of entitlement available only to their economic class. I am usually among those complaining most about political dynasties and politically-connected appointees who have not worked in the trenches. But a separate standard applies in this case, something we should call the Caroline Kennedy Rule.
The Caroline Kennedy Rule says that if your father is assassinated while serving as President of the United States when you are a young child, and five years later your uncle, a Senator from New York, is murdered while running for president, than you have earned the right to be appointed a United States Senator.
And Caroline Kennedy is not without her strengths.
First, she is the politically strongest candidate. If Kennedy had to run for this Senate seat in a contested election, she would sweep every corner of New York City, and win by large margins throughout the state.
Second, she shares Hillary Clinton’s demographic, and is the potential Senator whose situation resembles most closely Clinton’s when she first ran for Senate in 2000.
Third, Kennedy would bring New Yorkers more clout than anyone else. Some of this is because she is a Kennedy, but she also has a particularly close personal relationship with Barack Obama.
It was Kennedy’s editorial
“A President Like my Father,” published the day after the South Carolina primary, that injected a whole new dimension into the Obama campaign. By designating Obama as the heir to her father’s legacy, Kennedy gave his insurgent campaign a tremendous boost.
Caroline Kennedy was also credited for persuading Senator Edward Kennedy to buck the Clintons’ and go with Obama.
Finally, Kennedy’s selection helps redress the historic injustices that not only cost her a father, but ended her uncle Robert’s hope of winning the presidency in 1968.
We have come to the end of 2008 with surprisingly little remembrances of Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign, and those who want to learn more about the essence of that great man should examine Steven Bender’s wonderful, One Night in America, Robert Kennedy, Cesar Chavez, and the Dream of Dignity
. I write about Robert Kennedy’s early support for the farmworkers movement in my own book as well, and, but for an assassins bullet, Kennedy’s 1968 campaign could have set the nation on a course that was then delayed for forty years.
The image of a President Obama congratulating incoming Senator Caroline Kennedy will be as spread around the world as that of Obama’s election night photo. It is a scene that those whose hopes were dashed by the Kennedy assassinations deserve to see, and which New York Governor Patterson will soon make a reality.
Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the author of the newly-released Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century (University of California Press)