Harold Ford vs. Kirsten Gillibrand — Who’s the Real Bully?


I’ve  had some interesting comments in E-mail discussions, Facebook posts, Twitter and other places about my last post on the attempts being made by former Congressman Harold Ford and his cadre of wealthy backers to push Kirsten Gillibrand out of her seat in the U.S. Senate.  Because Gillibrand was appointed as Hillary Clinton’s replacement, a special election will be held this fall to decide who gets to fill the remaining two years from Clinton’s term.

A variety of people wondered about my motivations for writing the post, suggesting that maybe I didn’t like Ford because he’s only lived in New York for three years (we all know that worked for a Kennedy and a Clinton!).  Or that I have a problem with his race (I voted for Obama).  Or that I’m a man-hater (Mr. PunditMom will stick up for me on that one).  Or that I shouldn’t have an opinion because I don’t live in New York (though I did call Utica home for a while many years ago).

I have to laugh, only because I thought I had made myself pretty clear.  Ford  shouldn’t be in the Senate race for Gillibrand’s seat because we have enough men with Wall Street ties and money on Capitol Hill and we don’t have enough women to represent us in Washington, especially women who are pro-choice.

We all know there are only 18 women in Senate and only about 17 percent of Congress is female, so as a woman I feel I have some standing to say what I think about keeping the ones we have and pointing out the back story for anyone who’s challenging the few women we have.  Until we have equity in representation in Washington, state houses, Governor’ offices and other elected positions, we’ll never have issues that impact us the most put on the front burner.

For example, it’s nice that we got the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act when President Obama came into office, but that doesn’t require employers to pay us fair wages; it only expands our right to sue our employers for back pay IF we find out we’ve been getting paid less than men in the same jobs.  Updates to the Equal Pay Act were cut from the Senate bill and have yet to see the light of day.

Why is fair pay still an issue and not getting attention?  While I haven’t taken a poll to confirm the data, I would suggest it’s because no man on Capitol Hill ever got paid less than a woman.

Paid sick leave and child care legislation?  I’m betting that hasn’t made much progress because we have so few young families represented in Congress who have to deal with sick children, school, day care and aging parents.  Gillibrand is one of the few women on Capitol Hill with little children — how refreshing to have someone who’s had the same experiences so many of us deal with daily and having her input on legislation on those issues.

I’m not the only one’s who’s been raising some questions, and in response to them Ford has been lashing out.  It’s laughable and upsetting to me that Ford claims he is being “bullied” by Gillibrand, making references to party bosses trying to exert influence against him.  If being the head of the Democratic Leadership Council and having the backing of the fundraising chair of the DNC isn’t having connections with party “bosses,” I’m not sure what is.  As for bullying, Gillibrand is an incumbent protecting her turf and standing up to someone whose ideas are at odds with hers.

That’s politics, my friends.

Ford’s comments make me wonder if he isn’t using some bully tactics to increase support for himself as he tries to see how much support Gillibrand really has and whether he can make a plat for New York,even though he lost the last Senate race in Tennessee.  It sort of reminds of the scene in A Christmas Story (which is still fresh in my memory after the 24-hour holiday cable marathon!) where Ralphie stands up to the neighborhood bully and lives to tell the tale.

In striking back, Ralphie looked a little bit like he became the bully, but he was really just standing his ground because he was tired of being pushed around and wasn’t going to take it anymore.  I’m pretty sure that unless we’re willing to stand our ground, we will never get our numbers above 20 percent in the House or the Senate.

As I said, no candidate is perfect and I don’t agree with Senator Gillibrand’s stand on gun control or some of her Blue Dog background, but we can’t lose another supporter of reproductive rights in the Senate.  And we especially can’t let Ann Coulter’s favorite Democrat take the seat from someone we know will be there on this fight — and others.

We really don’t need anymore “Democrats” who are going to be closet Republicans on most issues.

So why is Ford really crying “foul” as people object to his efforts to run for the seat held by Gillibrand?  I certainly don’t believe that someone who’s survived Tennessee politics is afraid of a few sharp elbows.  My guess is that he isn’t happy to have anyone pointing out that he is more a Republican in Democrat’s clothing than anything else.

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11 Responses to “Harold Ford vs. Kirsten Gillibrand — Who’s the Real Bully?”

  1. Heather B. Says:

    Full disclosure: Barring anything too insane, I will be supporting Senator Gillibrand.

    There are so many factors here. Some of which I can’t share in public and others that I can but I will say that by this coming election there might be exactly ONE person of color in the Senate. Which if you’re counting is more than the number of women. Not that race or gender should be a reason to vote for someone but, I think it’s worth mentioning. Also, the way that Senator Gillibrand got into office many New Yorkers were unhappy with and the way that her office has been running things within the state/how they and the Senator treat constituents might also have something to do with it. I think this is why all of the commentary from the ‘peanut gallery’ is starting to bother me. There are several other factors and rumors and very specific incidents that might make some people feel that Harold Ford, Jr. is the best choice.

  2. PunditMom Says:

    Heather, Thanks so much for this comment. I know it is a sticky situation to talk about elections in states other than were one lives. But I’m curious — for people who want a Democrat in that seat, where is the comfort with Ford when he seems to have so many positions that are more in line with the GOP than the Democrats, especially on choice?

    I agree — the Senate is clearly lacking in color and we need to help promote that, as well.

    I look forward to being able to talk more about this with you in a few weeks! :)

  3. Knottime Says:

    “for people who want a Democrat in that seat, where is the comfort with Ford when he seems to have so many positions that are more in line with the GOP than the Democrats, especially on choice? I agree — the Senate is clearly lacking in color and we need to help promote that, as well.”

    I’ll assume a few things.

    You live in a residential area bereft of high rates of crime. And don’t have any guns. That you tell people about.

    You do not know the donation sources of the inserted junior Senator, or from whence those donations came. Look up her donations records; you know where to find them. (If you don’t know, (ahem), try this: http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=2008&cid=N00027658&type=I&mem=) And then keep looking. Boies? Where did they come from? Keep looking.

    And that you do not know the impact of incomplete reportage which has supported your newly minted hero. (She’s related to Polly Noonan? Who’s that?)

    So, for the record: If a professionally accomplished female, pro-choice, anti-gun, anti-war, registered black Republican veteran of any war announced her/his (intended, these days you can’t assume) candidacy for the seat now held by Tina, you would be shouting praise and halleluiah?

    I doubt. You have an agenda. Not an ideal.

    My ideal includes the general welfare of all. According to the good doctor’s prescription. Remember, content of character, color of skin?

    Tina’s ideal, the liberals in the D party, and their overall establishment today helps people to become dependant. Not independent.
    Based on the hersteria surrounding the (gasp) possibility that a Democrat might become a victim of the democratic process, I suspect that the lib establishment is getting nervous.

    Rightly so. Because they should be. Tina is a machine Democrat, and is abusing undercover power to subvert what would normally have been a messy, but necessary, political recalibration following an abysmal political insertion.

  4. Knottime Says:

    P.S. I live in Tina’s old district. I’m aware of the hype.

  5. Carol Schiller Says:

    The notion that you have to live in the state in question to care or have an opinion on who is chosen to represent it is nonsense, because it is perfectly clear that the composition of the Senate affects us all. And you are perfectly right: we absolutely CANNOT afford to lose another pro-choice vote in the Senate. Period.

  6. Sam Says:

    Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed by a governor who was not elected but filling in because of the failings of another. At what point do people get to have a choice? I know this is largely based on unavoidable circumstance, and in fact I like Senator Gillibrand, but I fear that when we take great efforts to avoid the messiness of democracy, we begin to take away the choices of voters because we fear the choices they might make. We are a brave country, let’s not shy away from the principles that have made us strong. Besides, would these people really have such different voting records in the Senate? I doubt it. Noticed the NY Times discussed this election today:


  7. Penny Quince Says:

    There’s no rationale for a Harold Ford candidacy because Kirsten Gillibrand is a worthy successor to Hillary Clinton – she’s smart, caring, and hard-working, and she is right on the issues. She’s never wavered on pro-choice, she was a front-line leader in the US Senate against the Stupak Amendment, and she is rapidly winning over skeptical New Yorkers with her tough stands on gun control and her fight for job creation in all of New York. New Yorkers will certainly have a chance, this coming fall to make our preferences known – she will no doubt have an energetic and well-funded opponent from the GOP. Sam will be able to pull the lever then, as always.

  8. Penny Quince Says:

    One more point: I just read the NY Times editorial and have this to say: it is Kirsten Gillibrand who is being bullied, by the Times and other NY Media, and by the publisher’s Wall Street cronies, into a divisive, expensive, distracting democartic primary which will bloody the democratic incumbent and set the seat up for a GOP take over. It’s naive in the extreme to believe otherwise. The guys want this seat for themselves, even if it means risking losing it.

  9. PunditMom Says:

    Penny, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. :(

  10. Lawyer Mama Says:

    “So, for the record: If a professionally accomplished female, pro-choice, anti-gun, anti-war, registered black Republican veteran of any war announced her/his (intended, these days you can’t assume) candidacy for the seat now held by Tina, you would be shouting praise and halleluiah?

    I doubt. You have an agenda. Not an ideal.”

    I know I shouldn’t feed the trolls, but Knottime, you’re out of line. You know no such thing. From your comments it sounds to me like you’re the one with an agenda.

  11. rrlieberma Says:

    If former Tennessee Congressman Ford is so passionate about public service, let him return to Tennessee where his pro life, pro gun, anti gay and anti-immigrant views might be more in keeping with the population of that state. Let Bloomberg buy Ford an election in Tennessee or some other state, and let New York avoid a costly divisive primary.

    Penny is quite right. Kirsten Gillibrand is a worthy successor to Hillary Clinton and we can expect many years of progressive, effective leadership from her.

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