Kennedy's Greatest Achievement

One legislative victory may have led to Obama's election

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With the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy, writers are seeking out his most valuable contribution during his nearly half-century in the Senate.

  • Immigration  Dave Weigel of the Washington Independent pointed to "the 1965 immigration bill, arguably the most important thing he ever did." The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 ended the racial quotas that had limited immigration to the United States. This allowed greater numbers of non-European immigrants, a shift that a Boston Globe writer once argued led, indirectly, to the election of Barack Obama.
  • Iraq War  "Kennedy all along had opposed Bush's Iraq War, and saw clearly before most of the country the various scams used to get it up," Juan Cole wrote. "It is worth remembering that the narrative most of us now share on the catastrophes of Bush-Cheney foreign policy derives in important part from Kennedy's speeches." Cole reproduced the entirety of Kennedy's 2004 speech on Iraq.
  • Civil Rights  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder wrote, "He did more than any senator in modern memory to advance the cause of civil rights." Ambinder cited, "the founding catechisms of Medicare and the Americans with Disabilities Act, AmericaCorps, No Child Left Behind and the Ryan White AIDS Act, mental health parity, the State-Children's Health Insurance Program, raising the minimum wage, the government program that extends health insurance for the unemployed and more."
  • Health Care  Famously, Kennedy called health care the "greatest cause" of his life. Indeed, many obituaries have treated it as his life's most significant work. Both Reuters and the Associated Press framed Kennedy's life in the context of his fight for health care. Reuters credited Kennedy with "decades of laying the groundwork to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system" and the AP called health care his "defining issue." Even Bill Bennet of the National Review, no ally of Kennedy's, noted the significance that "he was an early and strong supporter of comprehensive health-care reform.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.