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*read the very last line.....wow

Harold Ford hopes to win Sen. Bill Frist's seat -- and become the former Confederacy's first black senator since Reconstruction.
By Peter Wallsten
Times Staff Writer

June 21, 2006

SMITHVILLE, Tenn. "” The locals showed up by the dozens, a few in denim overalls, others wearing plaid shirts and hats emblazoned with "Army" and "John Deere." They sat on wooden benches beneath a picnic shelter adorned with red, white and blue bunting, sipping iced tea and downing spicy pulled pork sandwiches.

But on this muggy evening in rural middle Tennessee, the predictable conventions of a small-town political rally in the South ended there.

Addressing the sea of 200 white faces was a black man. And the crowd sat in rapt attention, interrupting with frequent applause.

Yes, Harold Ford conceded: He is a black Democratic congressman from liberal Memphis, the gritty, turbulent city where his family name is associated with machine politics. But Ford argued that the old labels do not apply "” not to this centrist, pro-war, anti-gay-marriage, deficit hawk of a social conservative who once criticized former President Clinton for lying about infidelity and mounted a challenge to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) by calling her "too liberal."

And even as he warns of race-baiting to come, Ford drops subtle hints that his ethnicity could prove an unlikely advantage at a time when voters want change.

"When they tell you that he's too young, and he's not from around here, and he's from Memphis, and he looks a little differently," Ford said in Smithville, "you should remind them that every single one of those big problems up there that's been caused in Washington, all that spending that takes place, there weren't many guys who looked like me that created any of those problems."

The scene that night has become typical as Ford attempts a feat never before achieved: becoming the first black U.S. senator from the former Confederacy since Reconstruction. The seat he hopes to take is being vacated by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, whose departure is not supposed to create a successful race for Democrats.

Ford and his strategists have studied the harsh precedents: the failed Senate candidacies in 1990 of Harvey Gantt in North Carolina and in 2002 of Ron Kirk in Texas, two states still colored by racial fault lines.

Ford and his team feel they are forging a different path.

He is only 36, but his style and ideology were formed long after the civil rights movement that shaped the liberal views of his father, former Rep. Harold E. Ford Sr., whose congressional seat he took over 10 years ago. As he spoke in Smithville about high gas prices, out-of-control government deficits, his wish that the U.S. had sent more troops to Iraq from the start, sealing the border with Mexico, even his support for school prayer, Ford's strategy was clear: to preempt the old labels by adopting new ones more befitting a Bubba.

Ford's campaign could make history on multiple levels.

It could help Democrats counteract the decades-old Republican Southern strategy that used race to mobilize white voters.

And, even as Ford hopes to win by seemingly running against much of what his party stands for, his election could help Democrats retake the Senate. None of the three Republicans in the Aug. 3 primary "” two former congressmen and a businessman "” is the heir apparent.

Ford's candidacy is also a counterbalance as Republicans seek inroads among black voters with African American candidates for high offices in Ohio, Maryland and Pennsylvania. A racially charged campaign in Tennessee could hurt that effort and undercut last year's acknowledgment by the GOP chairman that the Southern strategy was "wrong."

Ford and his strategists have been laying plans should race "” or the kinds of racial codes that marked other campaigns, including charges of being too liberal "” emerge in the fall.

The campaign has produced several mock attack ads with racially coded references that opponents might make to Ford's family and the "Memphis political machine," tested them on focus groups and produced response ads that cast Ford as calm and moderate.

Still, race is not Ford's only potential vulnerability. Republicans are already caricaturing a lifestyle replete with high-priced suits, pedicures, posh dinners, Starbucks macchiatos and five-star hotel stays. The Republican Party created a website, http://www.fancyford.com , to parody his upscale tastes.

The travails of Ford's family have not helped, either. His uncle, former Democratic state Sen. John Ford, has been charged with bribery, while his father was investigated for corruption but never charged.

"His biggest problem is that he's a Ford," said Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor who publishes the blog InstaPundit.com. "It's a branding problem for him."

Ford is not waiting for the attacks and invokes his family's troubles at every opportunity.

"Anybody who has a recipe for family ought to send it to me. Otherwise, be quiet," he said as the Smithville audience, surprised, murmured in approval.

But, if he has any hope of winning, the most important task for Ford is to convince enough conservative whites that they can relate to him "” and even agree with him. He will need that in addition to a massive turnout in urban black neighborhoods in and around Memphis.

Already, Ford's campaign has aired several statewide television advertisements designed to appeal to traditionally conservative voters "” attacking Bush for the deal to let a Dubai firm manage U.S. ports, assailing gas prices and supporting troops serving in Iraq. The gas ad showed Ford by an SUV, lest anyone mistake him as a radical environmentalist, as banjo music jangles in the background.

Ford also paints himself as almost nonpartisan. He brags of his run against Pelosi after the party's abysmal performance in the 2002 elections. And he praises the president.

"A lot of people in my party get angry when I say this," Ford says often. "But I think President Bush is a good guy, and I think he means well."

Although he voted last week against a Republican resolution supporting the president's policies in Iraq, Ford still boasts of his early support for the war and his four visits to Iraq.

What's more, Ford voted in favor of the Republican-backed House legislation that made illegal immigration a felony. That vote puts him to the right of Bush, who backs a Senate bill that Ford calls "too close to amnesty" for "lawbreakers."

Ford has distanced himself from national Democrats on faith, saying they sometimes sound "almost opposed to religion." He heads a faith-based caucus of lawmakers who support using government money for church-based social service programs.

In 2004, Ford hosted Bush's top advisor on faith-based issues, allowing him to be seen with some of the more conservative black pastors emerging as a potent force in both parties.

"There aren't too many African American Democrats inviting Bush White House officials to their district," said Jim Towey, former head of the faith-based office.

Some analysts believe Ford benefited after 2000, when his district, long a majority black district, was redrawn to include a number of wealthy, conservative suburbs, allowing him the luxury of operating more in the center.

"He was one of the few black representatives who had managed to construct a biracial coalition, which would allow him to make a serious bid for governor or senator, in contrast to most black representatives whose heavily minority districts lead them to take positions so liberal they become nonelectable statewide in most states," said Morris Fiorina, a Stanford University political scientist.

Now as a statewide candidate, Ford is invoking a surprising symbol as he tries to bridge an even bigger cultural divide "” between Memphis and rural areas dominated by conservative white voters.

His favorite riff involves a Sunday afternoon stop at the Little Rebel Drive-In in Jackson, Tenn., where, as Ford describes it, the parking lot was full of trucks with gun racks and Bush stickers, and the Confederate flag flew out front. Ford talks of being greeted with hugs "” and how he attached a bumper sticker to the refrigerator.

"My politics is not full of anger," he said, explaining that he sees no contradiction in a Confederate flag-waving voter backing a black candidate. "It's not something that flies in my yard," he said. "But there are people who it means something different to than it means to me."

There are signs that Ford's strategy might be working.

A Zogby International survey this month concluded the race was a dead heat. But danger signs emerged: Nearly one-third of voters viewed him unfavorably, and the Republicans hold double-digit leads outside of Ford's home region.

For all of his potential liabilities, Ford has an added advantage: He's a gifted orator.

After leaving Smithville, he drove to nearby Cookeville, home of Tennessee Tech University, where he addressed hundreds of rising high school seniors at the annual Boys' State convention in a noisy cafeteria.

Ford stepped up onto a chair to speak. Soon, the din quieted.

It was the toughest crowd of the day "” with questions challenging his views on Iraq, immigration and his "fancy" tastes.

"Yes, I wear suits and I like Starbucks coffee," Ford shot back. He challenged the questioner, a 16-year-old Republican activist, to force his side to talk about substance.

Watching Ford navigate the questions that night, Sean Ochsenbein, an 18-year-old Republican and son of an Army veteran, said he would vote for Ford. So did his father, also a Republican.

"When I look at him, I don't see color," the younger Ochsenbein said. "I see a person that looks outgoing and wants to solve problems. To me it looks like he has a tan."
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"My politics is not full of anger," he said, explaining that he sees no contradiction in a Confederate flag-waving voter backing a black candidate. "It's not something that flies in my yard," he said. "But there are people who it means something different to than it means to me."---Ford in article

This is REAL 'politician talk'.

Harold Ford KNOWS the Confederate flag means the Confederate view of the same thing it means to him, Ford.

The Confederate flag is the symbol of the status quo of the antebellum (before-the-bedlam) South.

It stands for the 'good life' enabled by chattel slavery.

The Confederate flag is the American standard for the the repression of Americans of unknown African ancestry.

Harold Ford is REALLY strokin' the duck here.



and I wouldn't trust Harold Ford no further than I could throw him,---leart

Me neither.

LIke father....?


PEACE

Jim Chester
quote:
And.......we're supposed to support him just because he's a Black Democrat?


Empty, I'll assume you said the above because of the article Kevin41 posted. My answer to you is... "It's politics". I'm willing to at least give Ford a chance. He wants to be a Senator but he has to deal with reality of where he's from.(TN). If he was running for mayor in one of our cities then I'd agre with you. If he campaigns and say things the way I think your suggesting then he may as well stay home on the couch. We do expect certain things as black people but we also have to be smart and understand how to gain power. I reserve my judgement until after I see how he governs if he wins.
quote:
Originally posted by alonzo:
quote:
And.......we're supposed to support him just because he's a Black Democrat?


Empty, I'll assume you said the above because of the article Kevin41 posted. My answer to you is... "It's politics". I'm willing to at least give Ford a chance. He wants to be a Senator but he has to deal with reality of where he's from.(TN). If he was running for mayor in one of our cities then I'd agre with you. If he campaigns and say things the way I think your suggesting then he may as well stay home on the couch. We do expect certain things as black people but we also have to be smart and understand how to gain power. I reserve my judgement until after I see how he governs if he wins.


And I would like to know how voting for him would help us "gain power"? Republican or Democrat, a Black politician works for the Beltway and Wall Street. Both of which are decidely not interested in helping our future.

What are other Black Democrats in power doing for us or our cause? Other than being a symbolic figurehead? What laws or measures have they passed that directly helps our cause or our people? What have they changed in the Beltway to help us? If you say "they don't have the power/influence to do that", then I guess they aren't helping us "gain power" so much after all if they can't even enact any change because their White peers and masters won't go along with it.

I say that people like MLK and Malcolm X who had little political power have done more for us than Black politicians who sit in Congress and continue to help the Establishment.
quote:
And I would like to know how voting for him would help us "gain power"? Republican or Democrat, a Black politician works for the Beltway and Wall Street. Both of which are decidely not interested in helping our future.

What are other Black Democrats in power doing for us or our cause? Other than being a symbolic figurehead? What laws or measures have they passed that directly helps our cause or our people? What have they changed in the Beltway to help us? If you say "they don't have the power/influence to do that", then I guess they aren't helping us "gain power" so much after all if they can't even enact any change because their White peers and masters won't go along with it.

I say that people like MLK and Malcolm X who had little political power have done more for us than Black politicians who sit in Congress and continue to help the Establishment.


What!!! you can't be serious. People like Sheila Jackson Lee, Maxcene Waters, John Lewis, Major Owens, Mel Watt just to name a few work their A&& off every day for our collective interest. They can't win every battle but they can win some and we have to be thankful for that. Please read what some of these people are doing and the issues they're concerned about and you can answer your own question of what are they doing to help us. Do some research on John Conyers and it will become clear to you that he's working for black people. If you experience a few years without black representatives in place I think it will become clear to you what they're doing for us.
quote:
Originally posted by alonzo:
quote:
And I would like to know how voting for him would help us "gain power"? Republican or Democrat, a Black politician works for the Beltway and Wall Street. Both of which are decidely not interested in helping our future.

What are other Black Democrats in power doing for us or our cause? Other than being a symbolic figurehead? What laws or measures have they passed that directly helps our cause or our people? What have they changed in the Beltway to help us? If you say "they don't have the power/influence to do that", then I guess they aren't helping us "gain power" so much after all if they can't even enact any change because their White peers and masters won't go along with it.

I say that people like MLK and Malcolm X who had little political power have done more for us than Black politicians who sit in Congress and continue to help the Establishment.


What!!! you can't be serious. People like Sheila Jackson Lee, Maxcene Waters, John Lewis, Major Owens, Mel Watt just to name a few work their A&& off every day for our collective interest. They can't win every battle but they can win some and we have to be thankful for that. Please read what some of these people are doing and the issues they're concerned about and you can answer your own question of what are they doing to help us. Do some research on John Conyers and it will become clear to you that he's working for black people. If you experience a few years without black representatives in place I think it will become clear to you what they're doing for us.


Alright, I'll give them their dues. I do appreaciate our people in high places who do contribute to our ongoing struggle.

But do you think it's wise to depend solely upon the two ruling Parties in America to help enact positive change for the Black community? Ultimately, there is only so much Black Democrats can do. They are still part of the Democratic party which has the intersts of the wealthy as their main goals. So anything they do must also have to appease the elite rulers to some extent, which means that they can only help us to a point.


I support Black Democrats who help and further our cause, but ultimately they can't help bring us to the mountain top, let alone down into the valley. The ones to do that will have to be us and our organized movements that run in contrats to the intersts of the Beltway, K Street and Wall Street.
What!!! you can't be serious. People like Sheila Jackson Lee, Maxcene Waters, John Lewis, Major Owens, Mel Watt just to name a few work their A&& off every day for our collective interest. They can't win every battle but they can win some and we have to be thankful for that.---alonzo

I agree with you, but...

They do good work without a doubt.

While they are 'working their 'a$$'s' off', I look at their work and here is what I see.

They CHOOSE to not seek permanent protection of access to the voting booth 'because it would cause 'white folks' to challenge the permanence on the basis of constitutionality.

WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

These members of congress, while 'working their 'a$$'s off' don't have the GUTS to demand of the law what that law acknowledges for women and 18-year-olds.

They stand silent while thirteen (13) States continue to be in violation of the law.

Neither disappointment, nor frustration begin to describe my feelings against such poor, poor, poor leadership.


Ford of Tennessee might do worse.

PEACE

Jim Chester
Alonzo:

It's true, we do need "good" Black Representation to work for the Black Community, but you can't make a blanket statement that all the current Black Representatives have been as productive as they should have been. As you pointed out, there are a few, but not all.

Consequently, the Black Voter who put those do- nothings in office, have to replace them with other Blacks Representatives to try and get the right person for the job.

leart
I really don't get your point. A Politician are who they are, based on the position they take on the Issues. These Politicians create and establish a Voter Base of Supporters by being specific on certain major Issues of the Day.

Even though Barak Obama has been elected statewide, I think the Base of his Voter support is Black, and it's definitely so for Harold Ford as a Congressperson, but he think he can get elected statewide in Racist Tennessee. Thats Al Gore Home State and they wouldn't vote for him.

You have to have some intelligence when running for public office. Harold Ford is a bright person, but he is not progressing Politically because he doesn't know what he doing, politically. Some people thought he would be considered for a leadership position in the Democratic Party, but he ended up being barely mentioned for any position, because they couldn't figure out what he stood for, or how he would function in a certain position.

In the politics of today, you have to put yourself out here on "Frontstreet" and let the chips fall where they may. You can't run around straddling the Fence like the fast talking politician of yesteryear. You have to line up on one side or the other.

Also, you can't compare these two individuals with Rev Jesse since neither has a demonstrated history of working in the streets for Black People. I don't know for sure but at one time I don't think Ford was a participant in the Congressional Black Caucus.

Even though he's Black, Ford is typical of many of the "White" Democratic Politicians of the day, they don't stand for anything. That's one of the main reasons they have had problems winning elections in recent years.

Obama is gradually falling into the same category, but you can't really form an opinion about him since he hasn't been in office very long. It's common sense, if you don't stand for something specific no group will be interested in your Politics. That's what defeated Al Gore and John Kerry, and it will also doom Hillary. There she is hanging around with Newt and Murdock thinking some Racist Southners will give her some play come election time, how stupid can she be. These people have a Racist Agenda, they will not support anybody who has a history of being progressive on social issues. Everybody on the street knows that.

These People have acquired control of most Statehouses, and the Federal Government, and they are not going to give that up no matter how many of them get killed in Iraq, or how many of them loose their Job, or how many illegals run across the border. Their interest is the same as it has always been, controlling the progress of the Blacks. Not minorities, just Blacks.

leart

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