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A Senate race without conflicting issues

Melvin B. Miller

As life in America becomes increasingly more complex, it has become more difficult for the Bay State Banner to satisfy its objective to provide relevant information on current issues. How does one explain with clarity the political confrontation between Joe Kennedy and Ed Markey? They are both Democrats who are considered to be progressive and they say that there are no substantial disputes of political issues between them.

It is easy to understand that Markey seeks reelection. That’s what incumbents usually do. However, if they have been incompetent in office or are guilty of some misconduct, the incumbent might expect to be confronted by an avid competitor for the office. But Kennedy has not leveled any such charge. The major criticism seems to be that Markey failed to provide sufficient assistance to the family of DJ Henry, a black college student from Massachusetts who was shot and killed by the police in New York 10 years ago.

When faced with such a loss, there is rarely sufficient consolation for the aggrieved family. However, there is a rule in the U.S. Senate that senators will not intervene in police matters across state lines unless they are federal offenses, and even then, senators are very sensitive about any breach of jurisdiction.

Neither candidate can be fairly accused of being racially bigoted. In fact, as a freshman member of the state legislature, Markey put his political future on the line by refusing to support an effort to establish districts for the State Senate that would make it difficult for a Black to be elected. Gov. Francis Sargent stated he would veto any such restrictive senate district alignment, and he did so. There was then an effort in the legislature to override Sargent’s veto. Even as a freshman state representative, Markey stepped up to do the right thing, although it would not endear him to party leaders. He refused to vote to overturn Sargent’s veto.

Markey was only about 30 years old at the time. That youthful courage is undoubtedly why Kennedy has claimed throughout the campaign that Massachusetts needs a youthful, dynamic senator. However, Kennedy underestimates the impact of Markey’s youth-oriented leadership role in support of the Green New Deal agenda.

Differences will inevitably develop between members of the Democratic Party, but it is good to remember that political elections are by nature contentious events. Blacks have focused on building solidarity and political unity. That strategy has enabled Blacks to develop political power since the 1964 presidential election. Blacks should be leery of alliances within the party that could ultimately weaken the clout of the Black voting bloc.

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