I know that everyone is already paying tribute to Ted Kennedy today, but I have to add my own words to the mix, because Kennedy's career and track record are too amazing not to note.
I have recently completed my book manuscript on the history of the debate between progressives and conservatives in America, and I have been researching a lot about the congressional debates this country has had in these last 220 years, and I have no doubt that Kennedy should be ranked as the single most important and effective senator in terms of progressive politics. Other senators I would put high on the list- including the great champion of abolition Charles Sumner, the great Progressive era leader Bob LaFollette, Sr., FDR's partner on much of the New Deal era legislation George Norris, and liberal lion Hubert Humphrey- all accomplished great things, but had neither the longevity in the Senate nor the breadth and depth of accomplishments of Ted Kennedy.
Kennedy has been a player in literally every major progressive accomplishment of my life, usually a major player, quite often the leading player: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, Legal Services, the War on Poverty, environmental legislation, OSHA, bringing down Richard Nixon on the Watergate investigations, ending the Vietnam War, stopping military aid to the Contras in Central America, the Martin Luther King holiday, stopping Robert Bork, the increases in the minimum wage, Family and Medical Leave, National Service, Motor Voter Act, S-CHIP. His fingerprints are on all of that legislation, and more. And even where he failed, on universal health care and labor law reform and stopping the Iraq war and other battles, he fought the good fight with passion and heart and courage. I hope like hell his fight is not ending, that he does not go gentle into that good night, because we need his passion and heart and courage in these cautious, careful times all the more.