Freedom Rider: Harold Ford Returns
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
He was the George Bush crowd’s favorite Democrat, and he loved them back. Harold “The Prince” Ford, Jr. “never missed an opportunity to score political points by throwing black people under the bus.” Ford sucked up to neo-Confederates and falsely claimed that his grandmother was actually a white woman. If his billionaire supporters have their way, New Yorkers will get to decide if they want “a right wing, pro-life, anti-gay marriage” senator who did his best to privatize Social Security.
“Ford has struck gold, quite literally, with the likes of billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg.”
Harold Ford’s political ambitions were detoured only temporarily, making the beautiful dream of a Ford-free political world all too brief. He refuses to disappear, like the proverbial bad penny. The former congressman and now chairman of the corporate backed Democratic Leadership Council has expressed his intention to challenge New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in November.
Ford moved to New York after his losing Tennessee Senate campaign in 2006, taking the position of every failed politician, executive at an investment bank. Whether at Merrill Lynch or the DLC, Ford has been concentrating on what he does best, currying favor with wealthy political donors. In New York he has struck gold, quite literally, with the likes of billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has indicated he would be supportive of a Ford run against the sitting senator. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Ford co-authored a column touting the dreadful Obama administration education “reform” policy with two more billionaires, Louis Gerstner and Eli Broad.
Anyone who can get the backing of at least three billionaires should be taken seriously as a candidate, especially considering Gillibrand’s weaknesses. She is unelected, having been appointed to her seat by Governor David Paterson after Hillary Clinton became secretary of state. New York’s senior senator, Charles Schumer, engineered Gillibrand’s appointment and has fended off/threatened several New York congress members with impressive credentials when they considered taking on his protégé.
“Conservative icon Ann Coulter called Harold Ford ‘one of my favorite Democrats.’”
Ford’s absence from elective office may have dimmed memories of the dangers he poses to black America and to the Democratic party. Ford made a name for himself as one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress during a ten year career representing his Memphis, Tennessee district. Conservative icon Ann Coulter called him “one of my favorite Democrats.” During that time, Ford never passed up a chance to gain the favor of heavy hitter donors, or of reporters easily impressed by an obvious light weight because his sucking up extended to them as well.
Harold Ford never missed an opportunity to score political points by throwing black people under the bus. On election day in 2006, Ford made a last minute campaign swing to the Little Rebel Club, wearing a hunting cap a la Elmer Fudd, hugging rednecks and worshipping an enormous Confederate flag. He was the precursor to the smarter and savvier Barack Obama, whose every utterance and action was excused by black voters because his election was seen as being more important than the well being of an entire race of people.
“Ford was the precursor to the smarter and savvier Barack Obama.”
So eager was Ford to impress the Little Rebel’s of his home state that he even lied about the race of his own grand mother, claiming that an obviously black woman was white. Ford’s shameful canard was discovered when he was exposed by his aunt, Barbara Ford Branch, who couldn’t stomach the lie being told about her mother. “I will not let them try to make my mother something she wasn't.” Unfortunately, Ms. Ford-Branch was the only honest member of her family. The rest of the Ford clan, including her brother, former congressman Harold Ford Sr., went along with a falsehood for the sake of junior’s political career.
Ford’s defeat in the 2006 Senate race was good news for black politics and for the Democratic party. There are already too many Democrats in name only who cannot be trusted to support the most fundamental policies that were traditionally the mainstay of the party. If Ford had won, the corporate effort to crush progressive politics by destroying black political aspirations would have succeeded. The nullification of black political demands would have been accelerated, making an already dismal situation exponentially worse.
“Ford may be hoisted on his own petard of opportunism.”
Ford campaigned for the Senate on an anti-abortion platform, and he also voted for “fast track” free trade agreements, the authorization of the use of force in Iraq, the disastrous bankruptcy bill, and for a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. When George W. Bush tried and failed to put Social Security in the hands of the bankster class, he counted on Harold Ford as one of his allies in the cause that would have destroyed the only safety net that black working people have.
Luckily, acceptable campaign rhetoric in Tennessee won’t translate very well in New York, and Ford may be hoisted on his own petard of opportunism. New Yorkers will not want to support a right wing, pro-life, anti-gay marriage candidate who famously said of George W. Bush, “I love my president. I love him personally.”
Harold Ford has written, or more likely had ghost written, a book entitled, “More Davids than Goliaths,” which will be published in September 2010, just in time for the Democratic primary. He is surely running, but we can only hope that enough common sense prevails among New York Democrats to send the Little Rebel scampering back to Tennessee.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley@BlackAgandaReport.com.