Hindsight 2020: Why the Democrats Should Support an Old Name for a New Direction

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Joe Kennedy III is the perfect candidate to lead the Democratic Party to a sucessfull 2020 general election result (Courtesy of Flickr).

By Collin Bonnell

Joe Kennedy III is the perfect candidate to lead the Democratic Party to a successful 2020 general election result. (Courtesy of Flickr)

When my little brother, Duncan, and I first heard of Bernie Sanders and his dream of a new America, we quickly became inspired. As young radicals, we understood that his promise of change could transform the future of our generation. Though Duncan was 13 and I myself was only 16, we dedicated ourselves to spreading his message. In the winter of 2015-2016 we went door-to-door campaigning and devoted much of our spare time to our new idol. When he finally met defeat at the Democratic Convention, we were crushed. Neither of us could think of anyone who could replace Bernie in our hearts, and the prospect of another Clinton presidency did little to inspire us. We quickly shifted our attention to 2020 and the future of our party.

Although many on the left appear reluctant to acknowledge this fact, Bernie will be 80 years old this upcoming election, and is thus a doubtful candidate. Those who cling to Biden face a similar dilemma. Though this may seem to doom the party’s prospects from the outset, there is also a youthful and promising new face among the potential Democratic contenders. He also happens to be a Kennedy. Joe Kennedy III, an ambitious congressman from eastern Massachusetts, may prove to be the future of his party due to his youth, progressive economic agenda and the legacy of his family name. Kennedy’s positive attributes are many, but among the most attractive are his strongly liberal policies.

The uncomfortable truth about the Democratic Party is that it must move left, embrace more ambitious reforms and campaign for a long-overdue transformation of American society. Elections worldwide have proven that the center can no longer hold. The days of the Clintons have passed. The Democratic Party must embrace its old New Deal roots and focus on centralizing the economy and work to keep capitalism’s excesses in check. The Democratic Party must avoid indulging in identity politics while continuing its strive towards social reform. This approach of advancing radical economic and moderate social reforms was undertaken by the most consequential Democratic politicians: FDR, JFK and LBJ, and has been the only successful approach taken by the American left.

Joe Kennedy III’s policies line up with this approach. He is a strong economic liberal who, while working to achieve social justice, does not allow social issues to dominate his rhetoric. In addition to this, he is oddly young for his political profile, and can thus serve as a way around the party’s current age problem.
Kennedy’s last name is ultimately a trivial factor, yet it is also deeply sentimental for many on the left. It was the Kennedys, after all, who laid the groundwork for the modern welfare system, passed key civil rights legislation, helped create medicare and medicaid, reformed social security and created the Peace Corps. The Kennedys created the Federal Government as we know it today, and the Kennedy name still carries tremendous political weight.

The Democratic Party needs many things, but above all else it craves enthusiasm. Joe Kennedy III is perhaps the only Democrat who can generate this required fervor while also possessing the name recognition required to survive the primaries. His economic focus, youth and the legacy of his last name have the potential to propel him to our highest office. Although at the moment it appears that Kennedy may not run, his potential as a candidate should cause him to pause and consider the possibility of striving for our highest office. He is the Democrats’ best chance for reversing their recent misfortunes and missteps; he has the potential to transform his party.

Kennedy’s extreme youth also means that even if he chooses not to run, he will continue to be a promising candidate for the Democratic nomination for many years to come, and can afford to continue biding his time until the impending vacuum in the Democratic leadership allows him to assume control over his party.
The thought of another President Kennedy, one who shares the same ideals, optimism and policies of his great uncle, is deeply intriguing, and should cause deep consideration on behalf of the American left. No matter who becomes the Democratic nominee in 2020, the party seems destined to undergo a massive transformation in the next few years that may allow it to reverse its poor fortunes.

 

Collin Bonnell, FCRH ’21, is a history and political science major from Hingham, Massachusetts.