Today everyone has something to thank the late Ted Kennedy for.
If you're a liberal, you can thank him for being the leader of your cause for a generation. Not that in leading it he actually accomplished much, in our view. As it stands, about the same percentage of Americans identify themselves as liberal as did when he was a young Senator who swam better than he drove. And the major liberal causes have in his time arguably been rolled back, as the Republic has gone through rearmament, income and capital-gains tax cuts, and welfare reform. Kennedy's pet project, raising the minimum wage, proved next to impossible through much of his political life. Meanwhile, the holy grail of "universal health care" remains unattained.
If you're a conservative, you can thank him for Ronald Reagan, whom he worked vigorously to elect in 1980.
Our favorite Ted Kennedy moment was when he joined Jimmy Carter on stage on the closing night of the 1980 Democratic Convention. Teddy had challenged the incumbent Jimmy in the Democratic primaries, and he very nearly toppled him. And so at the convention, in what was to be a show of party unity, he joined Carter on stage.
Except he didn't stand with him. Kennedy didn't shake Carter's hand or give him a shoulder-hug or lift his hand in the air. He simply stood on the side of the stage, grim-faced, and waved to the crowd, who responded with their only enthusiastic ovation of the convention.
Carter lost in epic style to Ronald Reagan. He probably would have lost without Kennedy's help, but at least Kennedy ended up on the right side of history in that election.
So who will take Ted's place? Certainly not another Kennedy. The clan's present generation are political dwarfs. But from the looks of things, the party of Reid and Pelosi, Waxman and Frank has plenty of characters who can courageously undermine liberal initiatives and torpedo party unity.