Alex Blaze

So Harold Ford is OK with marriage now... does that change anything?

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 12, 2010 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: guns, Harold Ford, Kirsten Gillibrand, marriage, New York, NRA

How harold-ford-jr-31.jpgKirsten_Gillibrand,_official_photo_portrait,_2006.jpglong 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.

Here's his 2006 ad showing off his anti-gay cred:

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Ford used to be a politician here in Tennessee. His whole family is full of corrupt politicians, and he left after his family got busted on corruption charges.

Good luck to Kirstin Gillibrand.

Ford has about as much chance of being elected a New York Senator as I do. The NY LGBT community isn't going to buy his flip-flops of convenience on our issues and downstaters especially aren't going to vote for a carpetbagger who doesn't come with the cache of a Hilary Clinton.

Ford's an outsider who's been far too right-wing for far too long to win statewide office in this area of the country. All his opponents need to do is keep playing clips from his old Tennessee campaign ads, and his candidacy will just fade away (as it should).

Restrictions on gun trafficking =/= a drive to remove guns from all the citizens. That's still fairly her position, that qualified people should maintain gun ownership, but the qualifications need to be rather strict. Unpopular idea among the progressive dogma adherents.

She's a moderate Democrat, something that may irk ardent progressives.

As you said, her career started in 2007. When did she start worrying about a Senate seat? LGBT issues besides marriage enjoy wide Democratic support in the house. It's always the Senate that puts the roadblocks. I'm not too bothered if she didn't make public statements of support for bills in the house. We expect most LGBT pertinent bills to pass in the house.

The Senate is always a mystery. That's where I'm concerned for every little vote possible, because usually our bills face utter Republican opposition, which is nearly 1 vote away from a filibuster.

The woman's done more to advance issues like DADT repeal than dear progressives in the Senate, to begin with. Taking the initiative on DADT hearings was done by whom? Where is the progressive establishment taking initiatives on these measures?

Oh, right, more righteous and urgent matters (Decrying Republican opposition, when they got several of their own treacherous filth blocking healthcare reform and turning out a ravaged healthcare bill with no public option).

Tilden of NY | January 12, 2010 10:44 PM

I think you are being a bit glib in suggesting that Gillibrand's "evolutions" are the equivalent of Ford's. Gillibrand famously declined to speak-up for gay marriage when she represented a Conservative district, but she never campaigned or demagogued on the issue, as Ford did, and she certainly never voted for a Constitution Amendment to ban it for all time as Ford did (twice).

Likewise, Gillibrand made some statements on immigration annoyingly solicitous of nativist sentiment when she was a Congresswoman, but she never voted for the round-up and year-long incarceration of illegals and their advocates as Ford did.

On abortion Gillibrand has always been a straight-up and courageous advocate in a district where it wasn't popular. She was likewise an Environmental champion despite the feelings of the hometown.

And on guns she has expand her position and moderated her rhetoric, but not actually changed or withdrawn any of her commitment to hunting and gun-owning.

Being more politic and a bit more precise with details is not the same as a flip-flop in my book. Being forthright in support of things you previously declined to comment on is not so laudable - but it is hardly the same thing as the kind of 180-degree values change that Ford is claiming.

It's very simple:

When Harold Ford was in Tennessee (78% make religion "important") he was against same-sex marriage.

Now, Harold Ford is in New York (48% make religion "important") and he now supports same-sex marriage.

Harold Ford didn't change his mind - the polls did.

The same would happen for almost every other politician. Their own survival is their priority. We should learn from that.

Is the lesson to make people less religious? Because that's a big piece of pie for the LGBT movement to eat. (that expression is now trademarked by me. :))

If we "change the minds of voters" we "own" the Politician.

We don't have to end religion to win - we have to understand "religious intensity." The "pie" is sliced. Two-thirds of those slices actually support us - unless we make the whole pie "bad."

Harold Ford is the worst kind of Carpetbagger. Gillibrand is the real article, a New Yorker, but I fear that the Diaz crowd will throw support to Ford in the hopes that he reverses his gay rights positions once in office.

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?

As long as it took him to pack those carpet bags of his.