How long did it take for Harold Ford to convert his position on same-sex marriage after announcing that he wanted to challenge Kirstin Gillibrand for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat? He leaked rumors that he'd challenge her on the January 5, and on January 11 he says he's OK with the gay marriage on the Today show. Not even a week. Considering he voted for FMA twice and put out an ad two years ago showing off his anti-gay cred (video after the jump), it's hard to see his most recent conversion as anything other than an attempt to get gay votes in New York.
Ford's campaign, should it happen, won't be about gay rights issues, or at least that's not what he wants it to be about. Ford's a tried and true corporate Democrat, willing to go to bat for Wall Street's interests. He's the current head of the pro-corporation DLC and the former vice chairman of Merrill Lynch. And the Democratic elite's wealthy donors are already cheering for him.
Kirsten Gillibrand isn't much better on those counts, raising millions from the New York's Democratic elite while doggedly supporting less taxation for the wealthy, but she also support the public option, Social Security, and alternative energy. And, while Ford changed his position on LGBT rights and abortion, she famously changed her stance on gun rights, moving from being one of the NRA's favorite House members to introducing legislation to crack down on gun trafficking. She also famously assured us that she supports marriage and has been working on DADT in the Senate, issues she didn't take a position on in the House.
He's the sort of politician that we see often in both the Democratic and Republican party, the kind who doesn't really care about LGBT issues and will just take whatever side they think is more politically convenient so they can advance their agenda on other issues or just preen in front of the whole country. George W. Bush and Mitt Romney are a good examples, and it's the vibe I always got from Gavin Newsom. And, honestly, Gillibrand herself might fit into this category, considering how her silence on LGBT issues as a House member from upstate New York turned into support when she had to get statewide support as a Senator.
Ford voted for the FMA, a call Gillibrand never had to make because she started her House career in 2007. Although I do hope that gays don't suddenly see Ford as an "ally," whatever that means, just because he said the magic "I support same-sex marriage" words. In a sense, this reminds me of John McCain naming Sarah Palin his running mate - the women want to see someone like them running, so I'll nominate a woman and they'll vote for me! Except we don't get anything of substance; we're just supposed to be happy that he said he's willing to support same-sex marriage. Never mind whether he's credible or not on that issue (I obviously fall on the side of "No"), there seems to be a certain amount of "You people want marriage? Fine, then I'll say I support marriage!" involved in Ford's recent revelation.
There are other issues that he'll have to speak on, he'll have to walk the walk, and he'll have to describe a bit more his conversion so that it doesn't seem like a cynical form of political opportunism.