Atrios and Amanda Marcotte have this exactly right, of course. And more generally, as Aimai notes, using a major figure’s death to try to galvanize support for the causes that person believed in is a perfectly normal, reasonable thing to do, and it would really be nice if we’d all stop pretending that there’s something wrong with saying: Ted Kennedy is no longer with us, but let us honor his memory by fighting harder, by doubling our efforts, to achieve those goals to which he dedicated his life. Health care for all. A living wage for all. Equality under the law. The principle that human rights do not end where citizenship does. A better world.
After all, on the one hand Kennedy was a master politician. He loved politics, he lived and breathed politics, he believed — as I believe — that politics is not only a necessary, inherent part of human life but has the potential to be used for great good. To suggest that we would do him best honor by refraining from politics seems odd, at best. And on the other hand, it’s not as though conservatives are going to scrupulously avoid “politicizing” his death, though they’ll mainly do it under cover of pretending to decry liberal “politicization.” Indeed, digby points out that Limbaugh is already doing this.
Actually, Limbaugh is a little bit right, here, though I’m pretty sure it’s by accident. Attaching Kennedy’s name to the bill most likely to pass — some watered-down compromise with no public option and a lot of giveaways to insurance companies — would be an insult to his memory. Senator Kennedy was a pragmatic incrementalist, as also am I, but he always fought to get as much as he thought he could each time. Incrementalism ceases to be pragmatic if you seek only the tiniest improvement even when a greater leap is feasible, and health care, now, is surely such a case. Nearly four in five Americans supports a public option. To fail to take advantage of that opportunity, and especially to embrace such failure as a fitting tribute to Senator Kennedy’s legacy, would truly be an insult.