"Those damned tea parties..."

Who was the first to say that??

No, not Barack Obama or Marcia, I mean, Martha Coakley.

No, it was Henry Cabot Lodge…in 1952.

Something was gnawing in my mind about Massachusetts and Tea Parties. And no, not the one in Boston Harbor in 1773.

Then I remembered. Watching all those JFK documentaries back in 1983, the 20th Anniversary of his murder, I saw several times that quote from Henry Cabot Lodge, who complained that this upstart Kennedy won in the 1952 Senate race because of the Kennedy campaign’s innovation, treating lots of young and older women voters to tea parties.

It always stuck in my mind, for, what, 27 years?? wow. Why, who knows?

Anyway, how ironic that a grass roots Tea Party, aimed at voicing honest public policy concerns, rather than buying votes, helped end the Kennedy dynasty.

Just in case you’re wondering, I went to Wikipedia (I know, but I was doing this on the fly), typed in “Kennedy Lodge 1952” and found this. Scroll down to the good part.

The campaign

The 1952 Massachusetts Senate election was a contest between two representatives of New England‘s most prominent political families: the Republican Lodges and the Democratic Kennedys. The Lodges were a much older political dynasty; the family could trace its roots to the original Puritan pioneers who had first settled the state in the early seventeenth century. The Lodges were often considered to be a “Blue blood” family, and along with several other Boston-area Protestant families, were considered to be at the apex of Massachusetts High Society, and they had been prominent in Boston political and business circles for generations. Lodge’s grandfather, Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., had been a powerful United States Senator from Massachusetts, as well as a close friend and ally of President Theodore Roosevelt. His grandson and namesake, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., had first been elected to the U.S. Senate in 1936, when he was the only Republican Senate candidate in the nation to defeat a Democratic incumbent. He was easily reelected in 1942. During the Second World War he had resigned his Senate seat and served in the U.S. Army. In 1946 Lodge reclaimed a Senate seat when he defeated Democratic Senator David Walsh.

Lodge’s Democratic opponent in the 1952 Senate race was three-term Congressman John F. Kennedy, then only 35 years old. Although the Kennedys were a much newer political dynasty than the Lodges, they had amassed a considerably larger financial fortune, thanks in large part to the business activities of Kennedy’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy. The Kennedys were Irish Catholics, and in many ways the 1952 Massachusetts Senate campaign was the climax of a longstanding battle between the older Protestant families like the Lodges, who had controlled politics in the Bay State for generations, and the newer Irish Catholic families such as the Kennedys, who for demographic reasons now outnumbered the Protestants. The Kennedys also viewed the 1952 race as something of a grudge match, as Lodge’s grandfather had defeated Kennedy’s grandfather, Boston Mayor John F. Fitzgerald, in a 1916 Senate race in Massachusetts.

Congressman Kennedy’s Senate campaign was managed by his younger brother Robert Kennedy, who would perform the same function for his brother in the 1960 presidential campaign. Kennedy launched his campaign early in 1952 and made an intensive effort, by election day in November 1952 he had visited every city, town, and village in Massachusetts at least once. He also collected a record number of signatures for his petition for office, assembling a petition of over a quarter-million signatures. Many of those who signed the petition would later become campaign volunteers or workers for Kennedy in their hometowns. A famous innovation by the Kennedys in the 1952 Senate race were a series of “tea parties” sponsored by Kennedy’s mother and sisters in the fall. Congressman Kennedy attended each of the tea parties and shook hands and charmed the voters (usually female) who were present; it is estimated that a total of 70,000 voters attended the tea parties, which was roughly his margin of victory over Lodge.

Lodge, meanwhile, neglected his Senate campaign for most of 1952. Instead, he focused his efforts on helping Dwight D. Eisenhower, the popular World War II general, win the Republican presidential nomination over Ohio Senator Robert A. Taft, the leader of the party’s conservatives. Lodge, a moderate and internationalist, strongly disagreed with Taft’s isolationist foreign-policy views and felt that Taft could not win a presidential election. Lodge served as Eisenhower’s campaign manager and played a key role in helping Eisenhower to beat Taft and win the Republican nomination.

However, Lodge’s prominent role in defeating Taft angered many of Taft’s supporters in Massachusetts, and they vowed revenge. Congressman Kennedy privately courted many of Taft’s more prominent backers in Massachusetts, and some of them, such as Basil Brewer, the publisher of the New Bedford Standard-Times, supported Kennedy over Lodge in their newspapers and announcements. Kennedy and Lodge did engage in one public debate, which was held on radio, the debate was generally considered a draw, although some observers felt that Kennedy’s ability to hold his own with the older and more distinguished Lodge gave him the advantage. The nationally-known and Catholic Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin refused to campaign for his fellow Republican due to his friendship with the Kennedy family; William F. Buckley, Jr. believed that Lodge probably would have won with McCarthy’s help.[1]

On the weekend before the election Eisenhower visited Boston and energetically campaigned for Lodge, but it was not enough. Although Eisenhower carried Massachusetts by over 200,000 votes, Kennedy narrowly upset Lodge, winning by 70,000 votes and three percentage points.