If there was one Democrat who kept the torch alight in the long, dark years between Carter and Clinton, it was Ted Kennedy. His early promise had fizzled, the deaths of his brothers and his own misadventure at Chappaquidick leaving him mired in grief and public disapproval. But by the time the Eighties rolled around, Kennedy was the elder statesman of the Democratic Party (which spent entire decade shut out of the White House).
He did a good job of being the loyal opposition: supporting where he agreed, and criticizing with polite intelligence where he did not. He was a particular opponent of the more sexist policies of the Reagan government, and also of many of its foreign policies – and their use to justify massive defence expenditures. Few things aroused Kennedy’s ire more than the Strategic Defence Initiative (or “Star Wars” as the media dubbed it), which was ludicrously expensive, impossible to create with then existing technology (and remains so today) and widely seen as likely to reignite the Cold War arms race. Thanks to Kennedy and many, many others, the SDI never became a reality.
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