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HARRINGTON: Joe Kennedy speech is exploitation of legacy

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The State of the Union is a political event guaranteed to elicit reactions from across the political spectrum. This year was no exception. The Democrats, however, selected a terrible spokesperson for their official response: Rep. Joe Kennedy III. In many ways, their choice is appropriate for their current state of affairs.

Parading out a ghost of the Kennedy legacy in an effort to push him as a national figure to rally around is the kind of nepotism and self-congratulatory nostalgia that is destroying the Democratic Party.

The Kennedy family is political royalty in America. That, in essence, is the flaw of a modern Kennedy. Political dynasties are a disturbing element of American politics.

Politics shouldn’t be a family business; it’s a public service. Showcasing another Kennedy and positioning them for a spot in office for sheer name recognition isn’t political passion — it’s an American monarchy. When a person is groomed from their birth to serve in public office and exist in a purely political sphere for their entire lives, they become disconnected from the real world.

The charisma and charm that John, Robert and even Ted Kennedy had were visible and central to their characters. After generations of public service and existence in the shadow of these political titans, this presence is diluted in Joe Kennedy. Former President John F. Kennedy defied the odds in 1960 and was popular during his time in office. Though not the uber-progressive force many have memorialized him as, JFK was something new and exciting in American politics. He was young, handsome and had the political tact to shape his government into what would be known as “Camelot.”

After his official response to the State of the Union, it’s shocking to think of Joe Kennedy as being in the same family as JFK. In place of the wit and playfulness that John F. Kennedy exuded in his speeches, Joe gave us rigidity.

When Joe’s grandfather, Robert Kennedy, announced the death of Martin Luther King Jr. during the most divisive time in American history, he possessed poise and empathy. As Joe Kennedy addressed the nation in a similarly divisive time, there was no emotional depth in his tone. He was not speaking to you, the American citizen, as John and Robert had in their speeches. Rather, he simply recited a speech.

In no way am I suggesting that JFK was a sterling example of a politician or person. He, like all people, had his flaws. However, his actions as president rose above those flaws.

Tragically, the American public never saw Robert Kenndy’s full potential before his assassination in 1968. And yet in his limited time in politics, Robert Kennedy made a profound impact on the country and electrified those who felt that the government had left them behind.

Joe Kennedy is more of the same candidate Democrats have been running and failing on. He’s a clean-cut name brand politician backed by Wall Street and out of touch with the voters Democrats so desperately need.

The pundits who continually hammer out article after article about Joe Kennedy’s speech and its honor of blue-collar values have all left out how integral white-collar lifestyles have been to the affluent Kennedy dynasty.

While playing on the JFK model of a coalition of the oppressed and the disenfranchised, it’s a surprisingly smart move for the Democrats. Their choice of spokesman leaves much to be desired.

For a speech addressing the struggles of people of color in America as well as the #MeToo movement, why not have any of the other potential 2020 Democratic candidates speak on behalf of the party? Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, Elizabeth Warren and even Kirsten Gillibrand are more adept and experienced political figures than the young Kennedy.

The baffling choice of a relatively unknown representative solely for the name recognition of the Kennedy legacy further proves Democrats have no idea what they should be doing and who they should be appealing to.

I want nothing more than another politician with the candor and passion of Robert and John Kennedy. America needs that spirit back in politics, with policies that can benefit the many rather than the few. America needs someone new who does not bow to the demands of Wall Street and lobbyists. What America does not need is Joe Kennedy III.

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