Wednesday, January 13, 2010

AFordable New York?

We are indeed witnessing quite a political spectacle in NY State-a Herculean effort to prevent anyone, no offense Tasini, from challenging the unelected junior senator. But, given the nail biter in Massachusetts, maybe there is some logic behind the effort.

In any case, Kirsten Gillibrand is someone who deserves to be challenged-and NY deserves a representative who hasn't been afflicted with lockjaw when it comes to the crucial issues of the day; someone who isn't simply a muñeca for the state's senior senator, an ambitious pol who apparently feels that ascending to the majority leader position is more important than standing up for his own constituents on health care.

And then there's the question of Gillibrand's, how should we put this, malleability on the issues. Her mentor Schumer claims that she has "evolved," but on closer examination what looks to him as evolution more accurately resembles an act of mutation. Clearly, she is someone whose allegiance is ruled by expedience. So, we agree with the NY daily News' Bill Hammond who points out that: "Gillibrand is running scared." And, given her staggering about faces-and low poll numbers-who can blame her?

As Hammond says: "If anyone deserves a spirited, competitive election this fall, it's Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. She is, after all, the unelected appointee of an unelected governor. New Yorkers were turned off by her history of conservative positions on gun control and immigration, and dizzied when she reversed those positions at the drop of a hat."

Not to mention the strong armed tactics being employed by the president: "By rights, she should be facing the political fight of her life - beginning with a contentious Democratic primary in September. But Gillibrand supporters from President Obama on down are doing their level best to shut the voters out again - by strong-arming every serious candidate out of the primary race."

Which gets us to the potential challenge of Harold Ford-one of those immigrants to the state that the mayor always welcomes. Ford, unlike Gillibrand, is being excoriated for his adaptability to the politics of his adopted state. As the NY Times reports: "But what is likely to gain the most immediate attention is his record on issues, which Ms. Gillibrand’s defenders say is too conservative for New York. Mr. Ford twice voted for legislation in the House that would make same-sex marriage illegal. In 2006, when Tennessee voters considered a ballot initiative to outlaw the practice, he vowed to support it. “I oppose gay marriage,” he said at the time."

As far as we're concerned, however, on the question of political alterations, the contest between Ford and Gillibrand is a push-which than raises the question of who is best situated-by temperament and political outlook-to be the next junior senator? In our view, Ford rates more highly-and it is on the economy and health care legislation is where he stands out, particularly when it comes to providing a counterweight to the current direction in Washington: "He blasted her support for the proposed health care overhaul, which is expected to cost New York an extra $1 billion a year, and for opposing the taxpayer bailout of the financial industry. “It was a mistake,” he said, noting that most Wall Street firms had already paid back the money. “How can you be against ensuring that the lifeblood of your city and of your state survives?”

And Ford goes on to say: “I am a capitalist,” he said. “I believe that people take risk, and there are rewards if they do well; they should lose if they don’t.” Incredible, huh? A candidate that actually supports a strong free market economy. That being said, while we do feel that Ford is too entrenched with those big business interests that have colluded with government to get us into this economic mess, we feel that he at least will exercise independent leadership.

Here's his take on what we feel is a crucial difference with the current office holder: "Zeroing in on a perception that Ms. Gillibrand too readily defers to Senate leaders, especially Senator Charles E. Schumer, he added: “We have a fundamental difference on independence. We have a difference on the level, the kind and the stature of advocacy New Yorkers deserve. And we have some honest differences on issues.”

Is Ford an ideal candidate? Probably not to the left wing of the party. But where's the progressive alternative to Gillibrand? Cowed by the party bosses and some thug who works at the While House-so their complaints about Ford's conservatism, and their defense of the newly liberal Gillibrand, are pretty silly given their own lack of political fortitude.

So bring it on-and come on Republicans, find a decent candidate to oppose the winner of the Democratic primary. New York, and the rest of the country, is facing some monumental challenges. And there are some real questions about what kind of policies are best suited to meet these challenges. Which means that the absence of a strong democratic process-signified by party bossism at the state and federal levels-is disastrous for the country.

And Gillibrand should realize this and embrace the primary challenge as a chance to articulate where she-and not some puppet master-stands on the great issues of the day. We'll give Hammond the last word: "If Gillibrand wants to be taken seriously as a leader, she should call off the dogs and welcome Ford into the race. If her criticisms to date are on target, he's a reverse carpetbagger from Tennessee who's too conservative for this state's voting public. So, what does she have to be afraid of?"