Congressman Joe Kennedy III scrambled Massachusetts politics last weekend by announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2020, setting up a high-profile—and high-cost—Democratic primary contest between himself and the incumbent, Ed Markey, who was first elected to Congress in 1976, four years before Kennedy was born.
While I leave my fellow Bay Staters to make their own decisions on this potentially agonizing race, I will not be coy: Come next September 15, I will be voting for Markey.
Not just because he is the lead Senate sponsor of the Green New Deal (partnered with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the House). Not just because of his unmatched zeal in defending net neutrality against corporate internet giants and the FCC. Not just because he is a more galvanizing public speaker than Kennedy—or, for that matter, his Massachusetts comrade-in-arms, Elizabeth Warren. Not just because I once sat directly behind him on a JetBlue fight from Washington, D.C., to Boston. (Who knew senators still fly commercial?)
No, I’m voting for Ed Markey in 2020 because he alone among U.S. senators has altered the laws of time and space to make the days longer and the nights shorter from sea to shining sea.
How’d he do that? Simply enough: By extending Daylight Saving Time by a total of four weeks.
“Through 2006, the clocks changed on the first Sunday in April and the last Sunday in October,” explained MassLive in 2013. “But as part of a 2005 energy bill, Markey, the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sponsored an amendment to extend Daylight Saving Time beginning in 2007. From then on, Daylight Saving Time started the second Sunday in March and ended the first Sunday in November.”
That’s right, people of Massachusetts and beyond: Midway through the Bush administration, back when he was a mere congressman virtually unknown outside his home district, Markey was co-responsible for giving America an extra 30 hours of late-afternoon sunlight per year—including on Halloween!—by tinkering with the Daylight Saving calendar for the first time in two decades.
(Fun fact: In 1987, when Congress moved up the start of DST from May to April, the effort was then spearheaded by a young representative by the name of…Ed Markey!)
I don’t know about you, but few things bring me more joy than being able to go for a bike ride after dinner without strapping a flashlight to my helmet—and few things more depress me than the sudden encroachment of premature pitch blackness by the first round of the baseball playoffs. While autumn is, in many ways, the most lively and enjoyable season of the year, is it really too much to ask that, on Thanksgiving, we not be forced to choose between eating a fourth slice of pumpkin pie and tossing a football around before it’s too dark to see?
Research shows a clear correlation between prolonged exposure to natural light and one’s overall well-being—a conclusion generally borne out by common sense—and any effort to keep the sun shining deep into the evening gets my personal seal of approval 10 times out of 10.
Ed Markey has done more than any other public official to make Daylight Saving cannibalize as much of the calendar as possible. Quite apart from his many other accomplishments—and particularly in this era of near-total obstinance by both houses of Congress—Markey deserves enormous kudos for the immediate, concrete difference his work on DST has made in our daily lives.
And if he wants to ensure his own political survival against the electoral steamroller that is the Kennedy family, he should take the logical—nay, inevitable—next step by drafting a bill to permanently stretch Daylight Saving to all 12 months of the year, so that Americans will never again need to biannually tweak their clocks—and their circadian rhythms—for no good reason, nor be subjected to 4 o’clock sunsets and all the seasonal ennui that goes with them.
There’s a campaign platform for you: “Ed Markey: Candidate of Light.”