Ed Markey

Thanks to Young People, Ed Markey Beats the Younger Joe Kennedy in Senate Primary

The incumbent senator may be up in years, but his win against Kennedy proves voters aren't looking for a youthful candidate — they're looking for a progressive one.
September 11, 2020
4 mins read

Ed Markey, the incumbent Massachusetts senator with more than 44 years of experience serving in Congress, was challenged in his Democratic primary by Joe Kennedy, a 39-year-old congressman who clearly misjudged the direction in which the liberal party is currently moving.

Kennedy — yes, one of those Kennedys — announced he would be challenging Markey for the 2020 Democratic Senate seat shortly after the 2018 midterm, when a wave of young progressive Democrats dethroned the older, more moderate incumbents.

Kennedy likely thought he would be riding that young progressive wave all the way to the Senate, as there had never been much hype surrounding Markey, especially compared to his eccentric Massachusetts Senate counterpart, Elizabeth Warren.

He was sadly mistaken.

Because what Kennedy got wrong about the influx of young progressives taking over Congress is that it was not merely their youth that excited voters — it was their newer, more liberal views.

Take what is arguably the most famous example of the young, wide-eyed progressive unseating a long-time Democratic incumbent: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beating incumbent New York representative Joe Crowley, who served his district for 10 terms before being ousted by the Bronx upstart.

Ocasio-Cortez didn’t defeat Crowley simply because she was young (she was 28 at the time of her primary win). She defeated him because her political ideologies more accurately reflected the farther-left Democratic ideals that progressive voters are looking for in candidates.

Ocasio-Cortez has come out strongly in favor of left-wing political positions including wanting to abolish the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and taxing the wealthiest Americans at a rate of 70%. She also became well-known for introducing the Green New Deal climate change proposal to Congress, which aims to, over 10 years, phase out fossil fuel use and have the United States eventually creating “net-zero” greenhouse gases.

And who, might you ask, was the co-sponsor of this incredibly progressive piece of legislation? Ed Markey.

Because Markey, while he has not been the most nationally recognized of the liberal senators, has quietly been fighting for progressive legislation for his entire political career. For decades he has fought for climate regulation, serving in Congress on the Natural Resources Committee, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and the Energy and Commerce Committee, where he was the chairman of the subcommittee on energy and the environment.

In short, Markey was fighting for progressive legislation before Joe Kennedy was even first elected.

There is also a compelling argument to be made that Kennedy was relying far too heavily on his last name to propel him to victory. Massachusetts citizens, after all, have been known to elect Kennedys to any political position they vie for.

However, even with the Kennedy name and power behind him, Joe Kennedy still couldn’t overtake the mass of support Markey began receiving from younger millennial and Gen Z voters. Much like fellow liberal senator Bernie Sanders, whom young progressives have hailed as the hero of the leftist agenda, young people started to see Markey as a cool, more down-to-earth Progressive, especially when compared to the Kennedy dynasty.

It appears that younger voters aren’t mesmerized by the allure of the Kennedys the same way older Massachusetts Democrats have been in the past. Nor were they mesmerized by Kennedy’s undoubtedly charming persona and his Kennedy good looks. They instead went for the progressive champion underdog, Ed Markey.

Oh, and that pic of Markey wearing some Nike Air Revolution sneakers didn’t hurt either.

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