Ted Kennedy, The Boston Herald, The New York Post, & The White Working Class
The New York Post printed a few columns this week criticizing the political career of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.
That’s fair enough. A conservative paper shouldn’t change its views about the issues because of a death.
But something that two of the columnists wrote stood out to me, as just another example of conservatives claiming to speak for the working class without evidence.
Howie Carr, a Boston Herald columnist and talk radio gas bag, a prep school graduate, who masquerades as the voice of the working class and Kyle Smith, a regular Post reviewer and columnist, both made the argument that Kennedy, in Carr’s words – “When it came to the white-ethnic working class from which his father came, Kennedy just plain didn't get it”.
Both specifically were referring to the 1974 controversy in Boston over school busing.
Carr, who lives in Wellesley, not Boston wrote –
Whether it was court-ordered busing in Boston in the '70s, or the affirmative-action policies that stymied the careers of so many of his family's traditional voters, Kennedy never grasped the depth of the blue-collar frustration as he veered left.
Smith went much deeper into the issue –
Consider a moment that showed us the essence of Ted Kennedy: Sept. 9, 1974. On that day, he came down from Olympus to visit Boston. A federal judge had thrown the city into chaos by imposing a draconian busing plan to integrate the city's schools. Kids were uprooted from their neighborhoods and sent to ones where they weren't welcome.
Boston was boiling, and it was Ted Kennedy who had turned up the heat. It was Kennedyism writ large (the plan was the sort of hamfisted -- and, naturally, doomed -- federal interference in local problems that Kennedy had made his life's work) and small: The judge in question, Arthur Garrity, who effectively took over Boston schools for 11 years, was a Kennedy family retainer who had worked on John Kennedy's Senate and presidential campaigns.
Ted Kennedy had remained notably quiet on the issue of busing, hoping the whole thing would go away and that no one would notice his fingerprints on it. But as the school year opened, and Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle implored him, "you have the one voice that can help keep this city calm," he dropped in to visit some schools. He agreed to speak to a vehemently anti-busing group that was holding a rally.
The protesters were not just Kennedy's constituency; they were the dead center of it, working-class Irish Catholics who "helped build the Kennedy dynasty . . . Many continued to hang Jack's picture in their living rooms," wrote Peter Canellos in his bio, "Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy." The crowd jeered Kennedy for about five minutes, then many turned their backs and began singing, "God Bless America." That was too much for Ted. Without speaking, he walked away.
His decision to flee infuriated the crowd further. He was pelted with tomatoes as "he took refuge in the federal building named after his brother," Micklethwait and Woolridge dryly note.
The symbolism was perfect. Here was a man who said he spoke for the people proving himself literally unable to speak to the people. Here was a man who argued that government was the citizens' shelter, using a government building as a fortress against the hoi polloi. That he literally took cover under his brother's name was the topper.
Are Carr & Smith correct that Ted Kennedy lost the White working class because of his elitist positions?
If so, wouldn’t those angry Whites punish Kennedy where it really hurts at the polls when they had a chance to do so?
They had a chance just two years after Kennedy “infuriated the crowd and was pelted with tomatoes”.
Kennedy ran for re-election in 1976.
And because he was so out of touch with the White working class, he was only able to get re-elected with just 69.31% of the vote!
Kennedy received 1,726,657 votes.
The Boston Herald paid circulation is 150,668
Post new comment