As the 2020 presidential election draws closer, the country is at a standstill looking at the given options: Joe Biden, a moderate Democrat who we became familiar with while he served as Obama’s vice president for eight years; or Donald Trump, a notably right-wing conservative who has caused a visible divide in the country’s political system over the past four years. Progressive Democrats like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have also brought attention back to the left and determined what candidates really are and aren’t progressive. While state primaries are still being held, we’re seeing the rise of progressive Democrats running for a spot as their states’ representatives and senators. Incumbent Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey proved that progressive candidates are back on the come up, after he defeated Rep. Joe Kennedy III in Massachusetts state primary.
Markey’s lengthy list of endorsements from progressive organizations and politicians like The Sunrise Movement, MoveOn, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, and The Sierra Club have backed his statement that he was more progressive than Kennedy. Co-authoring the Green New Deal and being a staunch supporter of Medicare for All, Markey made it clear that even as an older candidate he still carries very progressive ideologies. Markey, who has never lost a race, attributed this to the fact he was the son of a milkman from Malden who went to Boston College and wasn’t born into a dynasty of politicians like Kennedy, and saying these experiences helped shape him into the politician he is today. Kennedy, on the other hand, has politics in his blood: his great uncle was President John F. Kennedy (D), his father Joe Kennedy II (D) was a U.S. Representative for Massachusetts, and his aunt Kathleen Kennedy (D) served as the Lt. Governor of Maryland.
The Kennedy family dynasty has held onto the fact that they have always been strong Democrats. President John F. Kennedy embraced the fact he was a ‘progressive’ Democrat for his time. Nowadays, many progressive Democrats especially see right through the picture that ‘Kennedy Democrats’ have painted of what being progressive looks like. Nowadays, JFK would be deemed a neoliberal (a Democrat who embraces the concepts and ideas of free market capitalism), and though Biden does not align with free market capitalism, he has coined the term ‘moral capitalism’ to try to appear as a more progressive Democrat. Kennedy III’s loss, the first loss ever of any Kennedy running in Massachusetts, shows that the Kennedy Democrats’ legacy is coming to an end. Markey even decided to bite back at the generations of moderate democrats the Kennedy’s have churned out. He realigned JFK’s infamous “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” line to “Ask what your country can do for you.” He used it as a campaign slogan, signaling the progressive shift within the Democratic Party.
While Markey’s win is a huge success for progressive democrats and leftists alike, there is still much work to be done within the Democratic party and the political system in its entirety. Whether the issue is LGBTQ+ rights, gun violence, or racial justice, the system has to be turned around and the only way we can make that happen is by voting in politicians like Markey who will push for legislation on social justice issues and protections for minorities and the environment alike. Markey is one of the first progressives to be elected in this cycle who will ensure this happens—let’s keep more coming.