Camelot: 'Twas a Silly Place

22 Jan

Tuesday’s election of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown to fill a Senate seat held by a Kennedy, in fact one of just two Kennedy’s, since 1953 has shaken the political foundations of Washington, the nation and most notably the Democratic Party and the Obama Administration.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.  After all, the seat belonged to the people of Camelot.  It belonged to the Kennedys.  It belonged to the Democrats.  Or so they thought.

Ted Kennedy, the youngest of four Kennedy brothers and the one their father expected the least from, held that seat for forty-seven years, since his brother’s election to the Presidency.  In a sense, he had greatness thrust upon him.  Each of his older brothers had died tragically.  Older brother Joe died near the end of World War II.  Brothers Jack and Bobby were gunned down by assassins. 

This left Ted Kennedy to be the political leader of the family.  And while it was not what their father had originally intended, Ted Kennedy grew in stature in the United States Senate and was really the most effective Kennedy of his generation.

The scandal of Chappaquiddick and a primary challenge loss to Jimmy Carter ended Ted’s Presidential aspirations.  Hope held out for young John F. Kennedy, Jr. to perhaps follow in his father’s footsteps.  But in what some might call the Kennedy curse, his life was also cut short in yet another tragic accident.

Still, I don’t believe in a Kennedy curse.   They’re simply a large, energetic, passionate family.  Maybe that causes them to take risks.  Their tragedies and their triumphs have played out on the national and world stage. 

To some, they’re America’s royal family.  And face it; in terms of scandals they can give the House of Windsor a run for their money.

Many have termed the presence of the Kennedys in American politics as Camelot, the title of the Lerner and Lowe musical based on the legend of King Arthur.  Yet, Camelot, like the Kennedy curse, was a myth.

In the month after Jack Kennedy’s assassination, Jackie Kennedy called author T.H. White to Hyannis Port for an interview, it was there she said, ”

At night before we’d go to sleep… we had an old Victrola. Jack liked to play some records. His back hurt, the floor was so cold. I’d get out of bed at night and play it for him, when it was so cold getting out of bed… on a Victrola ten years old — and the song he loved most came at the very end of this record, the last side of Camelot, sad Camelot… “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”…There’ll never be another Camelot again…

Jackie Kennedy knew that she had to work to shape the legacy of her husband’s brief Presidency. And that she did.  But later White wrote that his article was a “misreading of history. The magic Camelot of John F. Kennedy never existed.”

Because Jack Kennedy was shot down in political prime, much of the legacy of his Presidency has been romanticized, as Jackie intended.  When Bobby was killed just after the California primary, the mantle fell to Ted.

I supposed in a “blue” state like Massachusetts it was only natural for the people to keep returning Ted Kennedy to Washington.  He wielded power.  He represented them well.  And while I find much of his politics deplorable, you can’t discount his effectiveness.

So, the assumption was that, to honor Ted, to honor the Kennedy legacy, to honor Camelot, that another Democrat would easily waltz into the Senate seat. 

Enter the American people.

At the beginning of the American Revolution the “Shot heard round the world” was fired from Concord, Massachusetts.  On Tuesday, the people of Massachusetts cast the votes heard ’round the world.

Tired of a Congress that doesn’t listen, a President with an agenda the American people don’t support, and independent enough to say that no one is owed a political seat, not in this country anyway, the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts elected to send pickup driving Republican Scott Brown to Washington.

Camelot was always a myth.  And now, it’s history.


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