What Is the Political Legacy of Ted Kennedy?


Ted Kennedy, brother to President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts for nearly 50 years. His career began in 1962 and he was re-elected a total of seven times. Firmly liberal in his beliefs, he was a well-known and influential Senator who had a strong impact on American politics.

Ted Kennedy's Legacy

There are many answers when considering the political legacy of Ted Kennedy. During Kennedy’s Senate career, he championed numerous causes important to the public, from cancer research to AIDS care, from immigration to health benefits.

His primary influence on American politics was simply the fact that he got things done; he was known, and remains known, as a lawmaker.

  • More than 300 bills written by Kennedy and his staff were enacted into law during his term in the Senate.
  • He was involved in nearly every bill put forward by either the Democrats or by bi-partisan support.
  • Kennedy was known, by the end of his term, as a lawmaker; his successful involvement with so many bills that made it successfully to law gave him a serious amount of respect and a reputation as someone who could effectively enact change.
  • Kennedy championed the idea of universal health care for his entire career.
  • The causes he supported were the type that would enact social change and tended to affect every American, but particularly those on the low end of the income scale.
  • Kennedy was a tireless advocate for equality and social justice and worked hard at passing bills into law that would improve quality of life for Americans in less fortunate positions.

Ted Kennedy's Reputation

Kennedy wasn’t always liked – particularly by Republicans, which has to be considered as part of the political legacy of Ted Kennedy. Of course, this is to be expected when a political figure is unabashedly open about his belief system, and when his belief system leans hard in one political direction.

Whether liked or not, he was certainly recognizable and memorable, and however opposing parties felt about him, he still managed to work in bipartisan situations extremely well. In fact, even while being considered a Democratic icon during his years of service, he was also recognized (even by those on the opposing side) for being extremely diplomatic and dealing respectfully and successfully with those who didn’t share his belief system. This, too, is an important part of Ted Kennedy's political legacy.

Kennedy nonetheless remained so firmly entrenched in his own liberal belief system that he was also known for causing something of a sense of division between the political parties; it wasn’t his fault, but in the way of American politics, he was so universally known for his Democratic beliefs that he was often considered a figurehead of the party. This put him in a position to be often-attacked and used as a negative example by those opposing him, whether in Senate votes or political elections.