Our Opinion: Markey aide retweet is a cautionary tale

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Another day, another politico's social media gaffe that makes one fearful for democracy in the Twitter age.

And for once it's not coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

As the rumor mill heats up about U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass., mulling a challenge to unseat Sen. Edward Markey, Mr. Markey's team showed a spark of Trumpian-level ill-conceived retweeting.

On Monday night, a senior adviser to Markey, Paul Tencher, retweeted a self-described investigative journalist whose original tweet read: "@EdMarkey, co-author of the green new deal, is a great Senator. @joekennedy should focus on his family's considerable mental health issues."

Rep. Kennedy's 22-year-old cousin, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, died earlier this month of an apparent overdose after writing about struggles with mental illness since a young age. Mr. Tencher and Sen. Markey soon after apologized both privately and publicly to Rep. Kennedy and his family.

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The apologies were certainly due, but beyond how personally offensive this was to a congressional colleague grieving the loss of a young family member, it raises more grander concerns. Are even President Donald Trump's fiercest critics being sucked in to his black hole of digital-age demagoguery?

Sen. Markey's team — especially his top campaign aide — should know better. Ideally, we should all know better, and the impolitic brand of lowest-common-denominator discourse championed by the president would not fly with any official or constituency, regardless of political stripe. This should certainly be the case in Massachusetts, a state that prides itself on its generally high level of issue-oriented, tough but honorable, political discourse.

But as the Trump administration and others continue to wield this cudgel to the detriment of our institutions' legitimacy, it particularly behooves Democrats seeking to model a meaningful alternative to make sure their offices are not made of glass as they rightfully cast stones against Trump-style political posturing.

This goes double for senior congressional members like Sen. Markey, the dean of the Massachusetts congressional delegation and the second-longest-serving current member of Congress from New England.

Taking this all in greater context, it is merely a single retweet by a campaign staff member. There have been, and will be, more egregious faux pas. This just so happens to come at an inconvenient cycle for Sen. Markey if Rep. Kennedy does decide to vie for his seat. That said, however, perhaps it would be best to hold our representatives to a higher standard rather than a lower one. This incident also constitutes a social media cautionary tale about the damage that can be done in seconds with a hasty and poorly-thought-out tweet or retweet.

We hope that Sen. Markey and his team will take advantage of this lesson. It would be a good one for all.


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