Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 29, 2009


Sam Smith, Progressive Review - It was sad to lose Ted Kennedy, but as I followed the coverage I couldn't help feeling a bit angry as well. It was almost as if the media, rather than helping in the burial, had stolen his body instead. And then those endless encomiums from those who hardly ever thought or voted Kennedy's way. I mentioned them to someone who had worked for Kennedy early on and had stayed close. Her immediate reaction: "Yeah, those shits." It felt good to hear something real again.

Of course, the same thing happens to anyone famous who dies these days. One poll found that 70% thought the coverage of Michael Jackson's death had been overdone. The media has become obsessively vulturic, morbidly circling over the remains of anyone of importance.

But there was something else troubling. Kennedy was a good liberal of the old school, a positive voice in an increasingly misguided land. But he was far from being a leader of progressive politics. To those pushing new ideas he was often an open door into power but he was no Ralph Nader. To the media and most of those establishment figures who dabbed their eyes at his service, he represented the absolute furthest left they would ever honor. He was the last respectable liberal. And they were there to bury him and what he stood for.

Ted Kennedy was no radical but neither was he the enemy of the left. As his voting record indicates, he was often an ally of those far more progressive than himself. And even in his death, he may be once again have done a favor: freeing the space the extremist middle had assigned as exclusively his.

But It won't be long before Wolf Blitzer and his ilk anoint some other acceptable leaders of the left. Unless, of course, the left gets busy, gets loud, and beats them to it.


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