Commentary Magazine


New York’s Biggest Losers

There are many reasons to criticize Caroline Kennedy’s bid to replace Hillary Clinton as U.S. Senator from New York.  For starters, it takes a tremendous amount of chutzpah – and I mean this in the greedy, not gutsy, way – to seek appointment to a high political office without a day of meaningful experience in public service.

Moreover, to the extent that she is attractive solely on account of her last name – and all the fundraising dollars that it can produce – her appointment would represent everything that this country is supposed to be against.  It is, excuse my redundancy, worth emphasizing that this is an appointment: Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush may have similarly benefited from their last names, but at least they had to prove their political mettle in competitive elections before taking office.  If New York Governor David Paterson ultimately selects her, Caroline Kennedy will have been handed a Senate seat for no apparent reason other than having been born a Kennedy.  So much for her pre-Super Tuesday experiment of promoting “change” in America.

Still, it’s impossible to ignore that this is the second time in a decade that New York Democrats have turned to a “name” – rather than promoting from within – in selecting a U.S. Senate candidate.  This is truly incredible.  After all, New York’s House delegation – the typical talent pool for Senate candidates – contains 23 Democrats (22 if you exclude the Congressman under investigation).  How have these Congressmen – most of whom have served in Washington for over a decade – so blatantly failed to build meaningful public profiles for themselves beyond their districts?  How have they so pathetically permitted outsiders – first a former first lady of Arkansas, and now a neophyte named Kennedy – to seize their opportunities for promotion?

It may be too late to stop the Caroline Kennedy juggernaut.  But, sooner or later, New York Democrats will have to ask how – despite decades of House delegation dominance – they found themselves in the position of needing a Clinton or Kennedy to preserve a Senate seat. Where are the apparent losers that they’ve been nominating for safely gerrymandered House seats all these years – the folks who were supposed to be the next generation of statewide leaders? Without this soul-searching, New Yorkers may soon realize that they have been re-electing clowns biennially for far too long.

Or, so one can hope.