The Best Reason to Name Caroline to the Senate

The buzz about Caroline Kennedy being appointed to the New York Senate seat Hillary Clinton is vacating is everywhere: The front page of the papers, talk radio and, of course, Chris Matthews can scarcely contain himself (though, so far no reports of shivers up his leg). But, the coverage has so far failed to focus on the best reason Governor Paterson has for appointing her: She would be effective at getting things done for New York.

A Senator is one of one hundred and the traditions of the institution all encourage comity and collegiality. They also have work to do, and senators who get tagged as "show horses not work horses" usually do not flourish. But, it helps to have a Senator who is capable of being both a show and a work horse, someone with star power, someone like Hillary Clinton and Caroline Kennedy. Why?

Advertisement

It isn’t that these stars can shine their light on issues of particular concern to New Yorkers: Most senators adopt positions based on their ideological and party affiliations, not their geographic ones. A female Democratic Senator from New York is likely going to be pro-choice, in favor of greater environmental protections, and support universal health insurance but so is a Democratic Senator from Minnesota or Oregon. Demography has largely replaced geography, except for the GOP’s continued hold on the more conservative Southern states.

The items of unique concern to New Yorkers, like earmarks and special funding projects, are not things you want to shed a light on nationally. Hillary Clinton caught flak from the press during the primary fight for her support of funding for a museum in Woodstock, New York to commemorate the rock music festival there that became emblematic of the 1960s counter-culture. The only people she wanted to know about the funding were the good people in and near Woodstock and you don’t need television cameras for that. The local paper will do.

No, the value of star-power is that you can deploy it to further the concerns of your colleagues. If Senator Carl Levin from Michigan is very concerned about one aspect of the proposed automakers’ bailout, but is having trouble getting press attention, Sen. Caroline could call a news conference and the cameras would come running. If the newly elected Senator from North Carolina, Kay Hagan, campaigned on a given issue but thinks it has stalled for lack of attention, Sen. Caroline could fix that. She would then have two chits, so when something of unique concern to New York comes up, she can cash in.

Star-power, then, works best when it is once-removed. Caroline Kennedy brings something to the Senate that no other potential nominee for the position brings: the ability to convoke the press and shine a spotlight wherever she wants. But, the gift is best undertaken for others, as a way of building support within the chamber for the issues, not the earmarks, that your colleagues care about. Then, when the spotlights recede, you can get their votes for the earmarks and other funding that the constituents back home expect.

Back-lighting as baksheesh. For Governor Paterson, it is the best reason to put Caroline Kennedy in the Senate.

 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
9 years 1 month ago
I cannot believe this column, or any of the boosterism that is being done on behalf of Ms. Kennedy. She should be a Senator because she's famous, and therefore will be able to "shine a spotlight" and then everyone will be indebted to her? Why not see what Madonna is up to? Also, Caroline definitely has the proverbial deer-in-the headlights look when confronted by reporters as to her experience and why she is deserving of such a position. She is not a political natural. I'm always amazed by how those (such as Mr. Winters) who are supposedly for the little guy are always so quick to embrace the rich and powerful as long as they have the "correct views." It is elitism, pure and simple. Here's an idea; why not appoint a regular New Yorker, someone who struggles to make ends meet and do what's right on a daily basis, and is not to the manner born? Believe me, such an appointment would bring lots of attention, and oh, what a spotlight he/she could shine then!
8 years 11 months ago
She was also one of the forces behind Biden's run for VP. That in and of itself is reason enough to disqualify her--that she's unqualified is just a bonus. Has the state of NY not been contaminated enough?

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla clash with military police in the Policarpo Paz Garcia neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Jan. 20, 2018. Following a disputed election marred by irregularities, incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared the victor and will be inaugurated on Jan. 27. The opposition does not recognize Hernandez's victory and are protesting against the result. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)
“You will see many protests during his mandate...because Honduras hasn’t fixed its age-old problems of inequality, exclusion, poor educational and health system, corruption and impunity.”
Melissa VidaJanuary 23, 2018
I want to be able to serve the state better. I want to be able to serve more of the state.
Nathan SchneiderJanuary 23, 2018
Formed in 2011, The Oh Hellos' Christianity is one of their foundational inspirations, evident in lines like "the only God I should have loved."
Colleen DulleJanuary 23, 2018
People gather at a June 14 candlelight vigil in Manila, Philippines, in memory of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Philippine Catholic bishops called for vigilance against bullying, ostracism and harassment of gay people in the wake of the incident in which police said a lone gunman killed 49 people early June 12 at the club. (CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)
“We are losing three generations of people, and we need to hear why,” said Bishop Mark O’Connell.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 23, 2018