Win one for the Ted

Today, Massachusetts voters will either keep hope alive or deal a powerful and devastating blow against change.

To those who live in Massachusetts, especially those disappointed by Democrats, my message is this:
Vote. Vote as though your vote could make the difference, as we learned after the Bush-Gore recount. Vote as though your vote could decide the outcome, which it could. Vote as though your future depends on it, which it does.

If you don’t live in Massachusetts, find folks who do. Urge them to vote.

I have warned Democrats for months that their failure to fight on major issues that have majority support is creating a depression among our voters. The repeated surrender of Democrats, even on issues with 70 percent support from independents, now leads to the surrender of a senator who refuses to run again, Byron Dorgan (D-N.D), at what should be the apex of a brilliant career.

I stand with Springsteen: no surrender.

To Massachusetts: Do not surrender.

Do not surrender your vote or your aspirations. Do not elect an impostor who dares to invoke JFK on behalf of himself, but is another right-wing Republican who would cement the dictatorship of filibuster and obstruction, on behalf of selfishness and greed.

When I write Democrats should “win one for the Ted,” I mean more than winning one election as Notre Dame fought to win its game for the Gipper. This is about what a great party stands for. What it fights for.

The case it takes to the people when asking for their support. The respect it must show the people when given support, ignored at great peril.

When I was a young man, I spoke one night with my boss and mentor, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas), about the day he first met Jack Kennedy on the floor of the Congress.

The Senate was in late, and a great senator told a young aide his stories about two war heroes in their 20s, one who fought in the Atlantic, the other in the Pacific, who returned home victorious in the Second World War to serve the nation in Congress.

Bentsen was elected to the House two years after Kennedy, and had “borrowed” campaign-literature ideas from Kennedy. We laughed about JFK’s belly-laugh response to Bentsen: “You stole my literature!”

As the Senate lingered into the wee hours of the morning, Bentsen told me about the dreams for America, and for themselves, that young Kennedy and Bentsen shared when they returned home from the war full of idealism and purpose.

If Democrats become merely the party of incumbency, trapped in a Stockholm Syndrome of insiderism, and obsessed with perpetuating their power rather than using it courageously, the golden moment will be lost.

If Democrats remember the lessons Lloyd Bentsen taught me about Jack Kennedy, they will fight for right with the courage of their convictions.

We must first win one for the Ted in Massachusetts. We must then wage the long-overdue battles in Washington.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at

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