Monday, August 13, 2007

Harold Ford's War Confusion

Last November the Democrats defeated the Republicans handily to take control of both houses of Congress. Democratic Senate candidates won in conservative states like Virginia, Missouri, Ohio, and even Wyoming, but in the Tennessee race to replace retiring Senator Majority leader Bill Frist, Harold Ford Jr. lost to former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker. During the race I condemned the overtly racist yet successful campaign that Corker and the Republicans ran against Ford, but I also wondered openly about the sort of Democratic senator he would make, especially given his ideological stances, which edged into outright Republicanism ("I love George Bush" remains one of his infamous statements).

After Ford's loss, some Democrats like Jim Carville were actively pushing to have him replace Howard Dean as head of the Democratic National Committee, despite Dean's successful tenure, but fortunately that disaster was averted. More appropriately, Ford was named head of the Democratic Leadership Council (or the Repub-lites) and has done little to dispel the impression that he and his organization are quasi-Republicans and out of touch with majority of Americans on many issues, including the War in Iraq. Just the other day Ford was on Faux News's Hannity and Colmes Show discussing Senator Barack Obama's foreign policy stances and the Democratic candidates' uniform avoidance of the DLC conference, and uttered the following statements in an exchange with host Alan Colmes (from Crooks and Liars):

Colmes: Barack Obama had a great point when he said those who voted for the war in Iraq and then had to apologize for that vote should probably be the last people to criticize he—who was right about the war in Iraq all along.

Ford: I don’t know who’s been right about this war all along…

Colmes: Sure you do…

Ford: That’s open for dispute.

Colmes: You don’t know who’s been right about the war all along?

Ford: One thing is clear. What we’re doing now is not working.

Certainly true on that last point, but come again? "That's open for dispute?" It's as if he's still campaigning to the right of Corker for those phantasmal right-wing independents, and we all know where that got him 10 months ago. As if the Blue Dog and self-style moderates haven't been awful enough, I can only imagine what a disaster he'd have been on most of the legislation that's come up for a vote since January. Democrats and everyone else needs to keep an eye on him, because he is one of the darling "Black folks" of the media types and of party insiders who are still trying to reprise the failed "bipartisan" tactics of 2002 and 2004.


  1. Ahhh Tennessee,

    I am here to tell you that the entire state is a lost Atlantis. This is the state that has produced Tina Turner, Gil Scott Heron (aka Gil Scott "Herion" in my social circle), Oprah Winfrey, Bill Frist, Al Gore, Fred Dalton Thompson, the Short Mountain FAE Utopia, The Klu Klux Klan, Andrew Jackson (the slaveholder and igniter of the Trail of Tears), and now Harold Ford Jr. What a motley crew of players, independent thinkers, Bible thumpers and reserved cruelty through ostracization and puritanical shunning. Harold Ford, in short, is playing to who he thinks is the American middle. In Tennessee the Fox News network is too far left for some . . . no joke! I got stories.

    You are right about keeping an eye on this guy, because Tennessee is very conservative and very wealthy (in very concentrated sections of the state). Its influence is far from minor in many aspects of American history. But I think Ford’s make-up is linked to the politics of the state which is in a strange place. It is a border state, and has always had a relatively strong black middle class. 50 percent of all blacks that owned property in the state lived in Nashville/Davidson County after the Civil War. From what I can tell from growing up there, that attainment and maintenance of property has had an effect on the cultural norms and opinions of that group of Black folk (i.e. my group of people). My mother has recently confided in me how she found the Black folk in Nashville a little cold compared to “home” (Alabama) when she moved there. She raved about her experience in North Carolina just to find Nashville a bit flat. There is more to that confession, but we can talk about that later.

    Though Harold Ford is a Memphite (aka Memphisite, in my circle), I believe he is playing the role his family has traditionally played in the state for all these years . . . the gifted black exception – boarding on old school boule -- with bouts of corruption. If one delves into how the Fords function in the state it might give one greater insight into his modus operandi – mind you this is an exercise I have been vowing to make since I have not lived in the Big T for some time.

    Ford is mistaking the conservative, Bible belt stance of Tennessee for the politics of the rest of America, just as Al Gore said that his Tennessee sense of statesmanship (stiff as a plank of hickory wood and remaining unaffected) affected how others perceived him; I suspect that Ford has the same Achilles hill. It still does not dismiss his politics, but he is very young and has been hand picked because of the race card no matter what anyone is saying. He is Obama II to some, but your keen eyes have caught the difference as usual J. This light brown brother has a saccharine after taste.

    I am not convinced that the Democratic Party really "knows" about Tennessee, black middleclassdom, and what is considered to be moderate in the Tennessee Valley. Carvel to me is a man trained to think that a Harold Ford Jr. is worth a shot. It betrays his Southern instincts concerning color and competency. The commentator is obviously not evolved enough to see that Ford has an opinion of his own and may not kiss any liberal ass just because a white person let him into the Democratic Party. Sorry, I am rambling, but the whole Carvel/Imus chatter I saw on Larry King was enough for me to pick Carvel's card in terms of politics. The worm is turning, but I am not sure if the Democratic Party has the tools to deal with the changing demographics of America.

    Obama really is a trail blazer regardless of what happens; soon such talking heads and their views will be obsolete, just as Ford may be a future wolf in sheep’s clothing who actually thinks he is a sheep, because of good ole Tennessee lumberjack machismo a la Lamar Alexander and Al Gore Jr. Not all Southern modes of behavior and politics travel well beyond the state line. And being a politician in this environment will only get you so far. People what to know where you draw the line in the sand.

    Saying you love George Bush . . . huh? He must have meant to preface that comment with “Because of Jesus . . . ”

  2. As if my post was not long enough . . .I was just typing really fast.

    I meant Carville and not Carvel.