BOSTON (CBS) – The “Kennedy dynasty” didn’t come to an end Tuesday night as the family’s unbeaten record in Massachusetts was snapped when Sen. Ed Markey beat Rep. Joe Kennedy in the Democratic primary. It’s been winding down for years, from the departure from Congress of Joe Kennedy II in 1999 to Sen. Ted Kennedy’s death in 2009 and the subsequent self-termination of his son Patrick’s congressional career in 2011.
If there were any lingering political capital attached to the Kennedy name, maybe Joe KII might have fulfilled speculation about a run for governor. Perhaps Bobby Kennedy’s daughter Kathleen would have won her 2002 gubernatorial bid in Maryland. Bobby’s son Max might have gone ahead with a run for the congressional seat won by Stephen Lynch in 2001, Caroline Kennedy might have scored appointment to an open Senate seat in New York, and Ted Kennedy Jr. might have run for governor of Connecticut in 2018.
But they didn’t. As Joe Kennedy III – who clearly leaned heavily on his family’s resources to launch and sustain his political career but never put them at the heart of his argument until the late stages of this Senate race – just demonstrated, the family name can get you a seat at the poker table but can’t automatically win the pot.
No one should be surprised. While we’ve had our share of dynasties, suspicion and resentment of them seems intrinsic to the American character, dating back to colonial times.
It’s no accident that the US has some of the world’s strongest antitrust laws. In lieu of royalty we have celebrity culture, but as Don Henley noted in “Dirty Laundry,” we love to “kick ‘em when they’re up.” If you detest the Montreal Canadiens and New York Yankees (and what true Bostonian doesn’t) you are part of our dynasty-disdaining tradition. (Exceptions: dislike of the Celtics and Patriots by sports fans in the lower 49 states. They just hate us ‘cause they ain’t us.)
And as 2016 casualties Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton can tell you, there comes a time when dynasty fatigue sets in, hard, and if you’re the bearer of the family flame when it does, look out.
It would be foolish to write off any electoral future for Joe Kennedy III. Despite what Twitter trolls might claim, he has little of the arrogance and entitlement other family members sometimes exude, and considerably more personal charm than most of them.
There is no more dynasty, just people with a famous last name and money. But that won’t stop celebrity-obsessed media from pretending it’s still a thing. And if Amy Kennedy, wife of Patrick, wins her bid for Congress in New Jersey this fall, brace yourself for a bunch of worthless dynasty resurrection stories.