The Future of the Kennedy Dynasty

Now that Senator Ted Kennedy has passed away, two questions become important: 1) Who will succeed him in the Senate, and 2) Who becomes the face of the Kennedy family? 

JoeKennedyBoth questions could be quickly answered if Joseph P. Kennedy II were to run for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. 

Though he hasn’t been an elected official in nearly two-decades, he remains a popular Kennedy and would be the sentimental favorite.  But he’s been reluctant to be in politics and something tells me that won’t change. 

Minus Joe Kennedy’s change-of-heart, those two questions aren’t so easy to answer.

The answer to the first question is tied up in a special election, something Mass. Democrats put into place so that then-Gov. Mitt Romney couldn’t select a potential successor to Sen. John Kerry.  The special election will feature a cannibal-eque runoff from any number of current Congressman and a few other wildcards.   Just don’t expect a Republican candidate to stand a chance, including Mitt Romney.

As for the future of the Kennedy clan, well, let’s just say that they look to be done with politics for the near future.  

“I have a feeling that many of them are going to opt for making contributions in fields other than politics,’’ said Philip W. Johnston, chairman of the board of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights and former head of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, told the Boston Globe. “They believe that there are many ways to make a contribution, and one doesn’t need to be in elective office to make a difference in the world.’’

Rory Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy, is a respected documentary filmmaker, while her sister, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who served as lieutenant governor of Maryland before making an unsuccessful gubernatorial run in 2002, teaches at Georgetown University’s School of Public Policy. Their brother, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., is an environmental lawyer, author, and radio host. Anthony K. Shriver, the son of Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy, runs Best Buddies, a nonprofit for developmentally disabled people. Maria Shriver, a TV journalist turned author, is married to the Republican governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Of the three children of Ted Kennedy and his former wife, Joan, only their son Patrick, a Rhode Island congressman, is in politics. Kara Kennedy worked for Very Special Arts (now known as VSA Arts), a nonprofit that promotes access to the arts for the disabled, while Edward M. Kennedy Jr., after working as a lawyer specializing in disability issues, founded a Wall Street investment firm.

For political junkies who have made a parlor game of guessing which Kennedy will run next, and for what office, it may be hard, even unfathomable, to accept the idea of them as primarily a family of private citizens, albeit public-spirited ones.

Yet the cold reality is that when analysts look up and down the Kennedy bench these days, they don’t see a wealth of political talent – an assessment solidified by his niece Caroline Kennedy’s struggles during her brief interest in filling a US Senate seat from New York (she withdrew in January).

So there you go.

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