The one thing I’m missing in the kerfuffle over Caroline Kennedy seeking the New York Senate seat being left by Hillary Clinton, assuming it’s out there somewhere, is this: who, exactly, is the highly qualified, superior, definitely ought to be in the Senate candidate she would be depriving of the seat?
Andrew Cuomo? He’s as much a legacy candidate as she would be. Yes, he’s been elected to political office before, but since when did that become a defining characteristic? Everybody runs at some point when he or she has not run before, not to mention that this is an appointment, not an election. Cinton herself had never run before and she turned out to be a pretty good senator, as did Kennedy’s two uncles. One would have been elected president had he not been assassinated and the other has compiled a senate record that may, in the long view of history, make him more important in the nation’s history than either of his brothers. And her father was, you know, President of the United States.
Here’s the thing. These appointments to seats being vacated as the result of the person currently holding it moving on to a grander position are about politics more than anything else. It’s about filling the seat with someone who will reflect the views of the party holding the governorship and the person who is leaving it (assuming they are both the same party) and who will either serve as a safe place-holder until the next election or be a good candidate in his or her own right in that election.
Kennedy certainly fits all that. She will certainly be in tune with the Democratic party both on the state level and nationally and she will benefit as the heir of one of the great political machines of current times with connections everywhere. With the support of Uncle Ted, she will end up having one of the top five staffs on the Hill upon taking the oath.
And, sooner or later, she will have to face public judgment in an election or step aside for another candidate. Because the people eventually have their say, dynasty politics is not the dangerous force it has the potential to be. I am not a fan of that tradition but it has been as much a part of our culture since the early days (Adams and Adams, Roosevelt and Roosevelt and–God help us–Bush and Bush, plus very nearly Clinton and Clinton) as has the idea of the citizen politician.
Kennedy’s public life, to the extent it has been public at all, has been both exemplary and substantive. Considering that the current occupant of the White House was nothing but a spectacularly unsuccessful businessman with a checkered past that involved drug and alcohol abuse, being AWOL from his military obligations and a history of “failing upward” with the help of his father’s rich friends before being dumped into a limited-responsibility governorship by those same rich pals to position him to be a front man for their financial interests in Washington, I’d say she’s more than qualified.