Although Senator Kennedy has won the election, he has not received the kind of support that most liberals were hoping for. His narrow margin in the popular vote did not amount to a strong national mandate for progressive legislation, and the phenomenal number of split ballots indicates that more and more voters tend to differentiate between national and local concerns.
Massachusetts is a prime example of this trend. Kennedy's overwhelming victory in his home state was not sufficient to carry Mayor O'Connor into office. Leverett Saltonstall, who has successfully served the local interests of Massachusetts for sixteen years, was once again returned to his seat in the Senate.
This represents an unfortunate defeat for Kennedy because O'Connor's vote could have been very important in the 87th Congress. In order to carry through his forward-looking program, the new President will need enough liberal votes, both Democrat and Republican, to offset the recalcitrant coalition of Republicans and Southern Democrats. And unhappily, O'Connor was not the only Kennedy supporter beaten in this strange national election.
While those indefatigable incumbents Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Paul Douglas of Illinois, were returned, no new liberal Democrats were elected to Congress. In South Dakota, Karl Mundt narrowly squeaked by George McGovern. Other liberal casualties included Frank Theis in Kansas, Hershel Loveless in Iowa, and Rep. William Meyer, Vermont's outspoken peace advocate.
Thus, Kennedy did not gain those crucial votes, and he will have to rely to some extent on the support of Republicans like Clifford Case to break the conservative group's strangle-hold on progressive legislation. In spite of this, the wide Democratic margins in both houses were left intact, and it is hoped that Kennedy will use the full powers of his new office to swing his fellow Democrats behind his own programs. But it is unfortunate that Kennedy himself, and liberals all over the country, did not gain a more decisive majority of the national electorate.