Monday, December 22, 2008

Audacity of Hope in Caroline's Visit to Upper Manhattan

With the Holiday Season upon us, Caroline Kennedy is aggressively campaigning to receive a gift from Governor David Paterson. She is looking to convince Governor Paterson to appoint her to the Senate seat that Senator Hillary Clinton will vacate when she is confirmed by the Senate to the cabinet position of Secretary of State. She seems to believe that she is a good choice to be a Senator despite the fact that she has carefully avoided being involved with nearly all public policy issues for her entire life, has not announced her position on the key public policy issues facing our state and our country at this time, and has generally chosen not to vote in most recent elections. Here at Manhattan Viewpoint, we are not supporting any candidate for the Senate position, but we are not enthusiastic about the rising drumbeat of support for the candidacy of Caroline Kennedy. We are not satisfied that any person's first full-time job should be as a United States Senator.

One Man. One Vote.

Though she is traveling around New York State meeting elected officials and important thought-leaders (including a trip this past Thursday to Harlem to meet with Al Sharpton), the decision regarding the replacement for Senator Clinton rests with one individual, the Governor of the State of New York. It is truly a one-man, one-vote system. There is only one voter in this election, and election day occurs whenever that voter chooses to conduct it. The Governor can choose anyone who meets the qualifications set forth in the United States Constitution (at least 30 years of age, a citizen of the United States for at least 9 nine years, and an inhabitant of New York State). Given those qualifications, Caroline Kennedy seems to meet the minimum standard.

No Experience Necessary

We are waiting to see evidence that Caroline Kennedy is a capable campaigner and fundraiser for her own candidacy. We are waiting to hear why she is a better choice than any of those in New York State who have sought elected office and been successful. We are waiting to hear her positions on the issues that will affect the lives of those of us who live in Manhattan. Her recent effort to give brief written responses to press inquiries riased more questions than it answered and hinted that she would would not work to elect Democrats in New York City in 2009.

Senator Clinton faced the voters in a primary and in a general election. She had never been elected to office, but she had been a leader in children's issues, healthcare, and many other favorite topics for progressives. She had been an aggressive advocate for many constituencies and had battled the opponents of those constituencies. She had stood in the arena and done battle. She had lost some battles and won some battles, and Senator Clinton learned from both the victories and the defeats. She had been a public figure fighting for public policy issues and important causes since her graduation from law school.

Caroline Kennedy is more than 50 years old and yet has never taken on a controversial issue (other than her opposition to Hillary Clinton's campaign for the White House in 2008). We are left to wonder whether Caroline Kennedy's first steps into the tough world of electoral politics should be to support Carolyn Maloney for the Senate seat and then to seek Maloney's vacant house seat. She could support the candidacy of her former in-law Andrew Cuomo and then run for Attorney General (she has an Ivy League law degree). She could seek an appointment to a prominent non-elected position from Governor Paterson or from President-Elect Obama. But, instead, she is seeking this gift from Senator Paterson despite her lack of experience and her previous apparent lack of interest in the key public policy issues affective our lives.

The Audacity Not to Vote

The clearest evidence that Caroline Kennedy has not been interested in political issues is the fact that she chooses not to vote in most elections.

Manhattan Viewpoint has discussed the sacred nature of the right to vote. As we said on the eve of the 2008 general election:

It has long been a cliché to many, but it is a truth that one cannot ignore. For many of us, our ancestors died to give us the right to vote. To squander that vote or to relinquish it because of inconvenience would be obscene, whether we have faith that our individual votes will shape the outcomes of elections or not. Because the 15th Amendment (1870) and the Voting Rights Act (1965) were victories secured by the blood of our ancestors, every election day is a sacred day, and we show our respect for those who made our votes possible by going to the polls and by encouraging everyone we know to join us in that sacred activity - tomorrow and every election day of any sort.

Against this backdrop, we have learned that Caroline Kennedy doesn't view voting as an important activity. In fact, she did not vote in approximately half of the elections that have occurred since she registered to vote in 1988 on the east side of Manhattan. She failed to vote in the primaries for Mayor of NYC in 1989, 1993, 1997, and 2005, meaning she was absent for the historic victory of David Dinkins over Ed Koch as well as the race that put Ruth Messigner at the top of the Democratic ticket to take on Rudy Giuliani in 1997. Her recent unwillingness to pledge to work to elect Democrats in 2009 is consistent with her refusal to participate in Democratic primaries in NYC during the last 20 years. She might view herself as non-partisan or post-partisan. I suspect that Governor Paterson is seeking a Democrat with an eagerness to support the election of other Democrats to replace Senator Clinton.

Caroline Kennedy also missed both of her chances to vote for Carl McCall in his effort to be the first black Governor of New York State. She didn't vote for any candidate for in the 2002 primary or in the 2002 general election that saw Governor Pataki defeat Carl McCall, and she didn't vote in 1994 when the seat she now seeks was held by the legendary Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who successfully sought re-election that year.

Though Caroline Kennedy has failed to vote approximately half of the time, she is working to convince Governor Paterson that she is the best choice to help him win votes in 2010 when both Governor Paterson and whoever he chooses for the Senate seat will be on the ballot together throughout New York State in both the primary and, if successful in the primary, in the general election.

Proven Winners

Carolyn Maloney (, Kirsten Gillibrand (, Andrew Cuomo (, Byron Brown (, and many other New York elected officials have proven their ability to win votes from Democrats and Republicans as well as their ability to raise funds for their own election, which is quite different from the process one uses to raise money for "the arts".

We expect Rudy Giuliani to be the Republican nominee for Governor in 2010, and we would be surprised if the Republicans are unable to find a formidable candidate for the Senate in 2010 (Peter King has already announced his desire to seek the Senate seat currently held by Senator Clinton,0,5265937.story). The 2010 election will likely be a difficult one for incumbents, and New York Democrats need the best possible team on the field for that contest.

With the abundance of proven winners in the New York State, we hope that Governor Paterson will choose a new Senator for New York who will prove to be a first class campaigner and fundraiser in 2010 on a statewide level while continuing Senator Clinton's record of tireless dedication to the people of New York State and unsurpassed support for Manhattan.

1 comment:

  1. Could not have been stated better. Thank you.