Mon
Jul 10 2006
06:49 am

Harold Ford Jr.'s interview here in East Tennessee yesterday (see previous post) got me to thinking about a couple of things.

Read more after the jump...

First, I wonder if he talks like this in Shelby County? Maybe some of you folks over in Memphis can fill us in. My guess is that he doesn't. He appears to be a chameleon, a shape-shifter, a guy whose strategy for success is to tell people what they want to hear and adjust his message accordingly.

He has probably paid expensive consultants a lot of money to tell him to do this. One of them, his communications director, doesn't have a very good record (Wes Clark's Tennessee campaign, Bob Clement, Ann Coulter, not that one, the other one who ran for mayor of Chattanooga - all losing campaigns). His media director has a somewhat better record, with the notable exception of the Kerry campaign disaster. This seems symptomatic of one of the more effective charges against Ford - that he's a Washington insider who is out of touch. Throw in Chuck Schumer and the DSCC's meddling in Tennessee's primary, and it's a pretty tough rap to beat.

The other thing is that a Democrat can stand there all day long appeasing Republican "values voters" who will nod approvingly, but come election day he will still be a Democrat and these voters have been conditioned by Karl Rove, Fox News and Rush Limbaugh to believe that if they vote for a Democrat they will get leprosy from touching the "D" button on the voting machine, their dog will get run over and killed, their kids will get kidnapped by gay terrorists, and in the end we will all die in a mushroom cloud of atomic bombs taped to bottle rockets launched by deranged cavemen from halfway around the world.

But beyond the political theater of it all, there are the "real" moral issues. To me, the Democratic party stands for one thing: Liberty and Justice. For All. You know, civil liberties. Social and economic justice. Equal opportunity. Environmental justice. A just and strong foreign policy that truly protects our liberties. Stuff like that. If you're going to call yourself a Democrat and run for one of the highest offices in the land, you ought to promote those values. Otherwise, you should run as an Independent. Or a Republican.

The sad thing is that Harold Ford, Jr. has a fairly progressive record on some of the issues, such as health care, education, Social Security, some civil rights issues, and others you can look up here.

But his pandering remarks from yesterday a) give credibility to "wedge" issues setup by Republicans to divide the nation and direct voters' attention away from the GOP's dismal record on real issues, and b) aren't going to convince any of the 30% dead enders, or even moderate Republicans or independent swing voters who don't care about these issues in the first place.

It is tempting to say "OK, let them have those issues. Big deal. We'll go along on things that don't matter so we can get another D in the Senate and have some real reforms." The trouble is that it does matter in the sense that right-wing extremists are nibbling away at the very idea of Liberty and Justice for All. Why encourage and enable them? Don't feed the trolls!

This "triangulation" stuff may have worked for Bill Clinton, but he had the the political skills and the juice to get the "real reform" payoff part of the equation done. The Blue Dogs and the DLC have yet to produce another Bill Clinton, and probably won't for the foreseeable future. Charismatic leaders who can get stuff done are born, not invented in fancy K Street restaurants.

But worse, the bad advice Ford is getting from his consultants on these issues may keep Democrats home in droves come November. He would do well to remember that this is a statewide election, and there isn't a "senate electoral college" that requires him to win county by county. He probably can't carry Knox County, or much of East Tennessee for that matter, but there are plenty of Democratic voters who will turn out to support progressive candidates in Knox County, Blount County, Anderson County, Hamilton County, and all over the region. He needs these voters and their support. Turning them off by letting the GOP maneuver him into a corner on bogus issues is the last thing he needs to do.

P.S. There's a school of thought that says you don't win elections running on issues - you win by getting voters to identify with you, or at least some manufactured idea of you that appeals to their gut instinct and "tribal" affiliations. This, they say, is why Republicans have been more successful of late, and why Democrats never get out of the gate talking about issues. If that's the case, Harold Ford Jr. needs to figure out who his tribe is, and start representing them. As it stands today, it seems more like he is hellbent on alienating everybody.

WhitesCreek's picture

R.Neal said:...the bad

R.Neal said:

...the bad advice Ford is getting from his consultants on these issues may keep Democrats home in droves come November. He would do well to remember that this is a statewide election, and there isn't a "senate electoral college" that requires him to win county by county. He probably can't carry Knox County, or much of East Tennessee for that matter, but there are plenty of Democratic voters who will turn out to support progressive candidates in Knox County, Blount County, Anderson County, Hamilton County, and all over the region. He needs these voters and their support. Turning them off by letting the GOP maneuver him into a corner on bogus issues is the last thing he needs to do.

Exactly! There is a lot of festering anger at Republicans that Ford should use. the election was close enough for bush to steal because he managed to bring out right wing evangelicals in near 100% turnout...Had we done the same thing for Progressives...

 Steve

Andy Axel's picture

And what if he wins?

It is tempting to say "OK, let them have those issues. Big deal. We'll go along on things that don't matter so we can get another D in the Senate and have some real reforms." The trouble is that it does matter in the sense that right-wing extremists are nibbling away at the very idea of Liberty and Justice for All. Why encourage and enable them?

Here's what I was thinking last night as you posted about Harold Ford, Jr. channeling Dave Chapelle's "Black Bush:"

If he wins, it will only validate this "strategy." And it will only encourage others to repeat it.

____________________________

"The iPod was not developed by Baptists in Waco." -- G.K.

LeftWingCracker's picture

Yep, except that

Ford rarely, if ever, comes BACK to Shelby County these days.  Those of us who are liberal bloggers in Memphis are acutely aware that he damages the Democratic brand (or what's left of it) every time he panders to the Rethugs.

 

Rachel's picture

I agree with just about

I agree with just about everything you said about Ford.  That said, I'm voting for him anyway.  The alternative is too depressing to comtemplate.

R. Neal's picture

I agree with just about

I agree with just about everything you said about Ford. That said, I'm voting for him anyway. The alternative is too depressing to comtemplate.

Me too. Sad isn't it?

Volunteer Silver's picture

Electoral politics is like

Electoral politics is like television. It is about who can be the lowest common denominator. I am thinking of doing a write in ballot for None of the Above.

Andy Axel's picture

Me three, probably

Yeah, and me too. And I suspect for naught, FWIW.

Gee, I wish we could have had a primary.

Electoral politics is like television.

I was thinking of pro wrestling, actually. Ford looks like one of these juiced-up balding 'roid monkeys getting ever-so-much-more vocal about how he's gonna kick some butt at Elect-O-Mania 'XI.

"Now, I'm talkin' to YOU, Corker! NOBODY HATES GAYS MORE THAN THE JUNIOR, BABY! WHOOOOOOO! Ed Bryant? I DON'T KNOW NOTHIN' 'BOUT ABORTIN' NO BABIES, BABY!!! WHOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Van Hilleary? FLAG, BABY! FLAG!!!!!!!"

Truth be told, it'll be the guy who shows up in the ring in the fanciest singlet who wins.

____________________________

"The iPod was not developed by Baptists in Waco." -- G.K.

Eleanor A's picture

I'm seriously considering

staying home. When my choices are all Republicans, what's the point? Sure, one would like to see the U.S. Senate go Dem, but who's to guarantee Ford will go along with other Dems when he's talking like this? I can hear it now: Bush declares martial law and Ford goes along with it because he claims it's "what Tennesseans want." If he won't stand up for Democrats now, what makes us think he'll do it if we elect him?

What's worse is that nobody in the state Dem infrastructure gets it. Mostly because everything's under control of our "Democratic" governor, whose approval rating is - I'll say it again - 20 percentage points higher amongst Republicans. So now everybody thinks the way to win is to ape the Republicans, trying to gather up their crossover votes, without realizing that Dems also showed up in droves in 2002 to support Bredesen. It'll be interesting to see what happens this time, now that Bredesen has spit in the eye of several of his key constituencies (labor, gays, Kerry supporters, people who need health care...) Bredesen won't actually lose to Bryson, because he's got more money than God and because the Republicans adore him, but Bryson will get more votes than many expect simply because he's a Republican. Also, the same Republicans who love Bredesen because they see him as one of them won't feel that way about Ford, for a few different reasons, and will be just fine with splitting their vote between Bredesen and Corker.

You know, I'd be OK with various triangulations if we could actually win elections, for crying out loud. But we lost the state Senate in '04, many people think the state House is now in serious jeopardy, and nobody will have a clue what really lost it when the deal goes down.

For my money, here's what we need to do:

* Recruit, train and educate candidates who aren't from the same old inbred white boys pool.

* Stop Dem Party representatives from taking sides in primaries. Who's going to bother to run in an election when she knows her local Dem county chair and half the executive board will lend their names to the campaign of her opponent? Even state officers frequently take sides, which lends a chilling effect to anyone who's challenging the good ol' boys.

We've got the worst variety happening in Davidson right now, with the county chair, a political consultant, allowing herself to be hired and paid by candidates in primaries. What message does this send? That you have to hire support from your own Party? What's to stop this Chair from using official Party resources to help her client, who's paying her? It's just not a good precedent to set if you want to build a Party with any bench strength at all.

* Take up Senator Kurita on her suggestion that we need to elect more statewide candidates. Most states elect Lt. Gov, Attorney General, and some even elect a Treasurer. So you've got folks waiting in the wings to use those jobs as springboards.

The problem is, if you actually stand up and say any of these things in official Democratic meetings, you're denounced as a traitor and told that by criticizing anything, you're playing into the hands of the Republicans.

Guess some folks didn't ever get the memo about dissent being the highest form of patriotism, and all.

Eleanor A's picture

Reason to vote?

This just in, from today's Tennessean:

U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., the likely Democratic candidate, said he finds it hard to believe that voters will not be thinking about the war when they cast their ballots.

"The war in Iraq has cost $400 billion, we've lost 2,500 soldiers," Ford said at a campaign event. "I don't know what world my Republican opponents are living in if they don't believe the war in Iraq is an important issue to people across this state."

Good for him. At least he hasn't totally backtracked on this. There may yet be hope...

R. Neal's picture

Yes, I give him credit for

Yes, I give him credit for that (despite his vote for the invasion). See the WATE interview Part 1, where he gives Bush down the road on Iraq.

Andy Axel's picture

If that's the case, Harold

If that's the case, Harold Ford Jr. needs to figure out who his tribe is, and start representing them. As it stands today, it seems more like he is hellbent on alienating everybody.

This is a long-standing criticism of Harold "My Grandmother Vera was White" Ford.

____________________________

"The iPod was not developed by Baptists in Waco." -- G.K.

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