Politics » Politics Feature


'Where We Are, How We Got Here, and How We Get Out of This Mess'


(Note: this now widely circulated piece first appeared on the blog "The Flypaper Theory"(http://www.thepeskyfly.blogspot.com)

(This is going to be a long one. I invite the reader to start some coffee or tea, pack your pipe, and sit with me a while.)

Exactly one year ago today, the representative for the city with the highest personal bankruptcy rate in the nation voted for S.256, better known by its Orwellian name, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act.

The bill, originally written by a lobbyist for the financial services industry, strips away state and federal consumer protections from predatory lenders and makes it all but impossible for a family under bankruptcy protection due to hardship to escape from debt. In short, the bill is a greedy vampire's attempt to suck blood from turnips.

On that day, Democrats across the city got final confirmation of a suspicion that had been gnawing at the backs of their minds for months: their beloved representative, Harold Ford Jr., had sold them out. The consistent pattern of betrayal to the needs and wishes of his constituents in deference to the Bush Administration, the Republicans, and the corporations could have previously been explained away as the careless posturing of an inexperienced politician.

As representative of the city of Memphis, the nation's twin capitol of personal bankruptcy and infant mortality, Harold Ford, Jr. is the one member of Congress who, more than any other, should be counted on to champion the needs of those facing financial ruin. As a member of both the House Budget and Financial Services Committees, he has more power to positively influence the fortunes of his constituents in financial distress than any Memphian alive. But when faced with the choice between David and Goliath, Harold Ford, Jr. cast his lot with the ruthless giant. The evidence of his perfidity at that moment became irrefutable.

Some of us, blinded by affection, racial politics, or a combination of the two, refused (and still refuse) to believe it. Others, whose fortunes are tied to the Ford family name like a noose around their necks, chose to ignore it. But some of us, and not just a few of us either, snapped out of our delusion as if we had been awakened by a gunshot. We woke from our peaceful dreams to find a nightmare scene: a burning Democratic house, choked by smoke and hot air, with nowhere to escape in sight.

It is difficult for those who live outside Memphis to appreciate the stranglehold the Ford family has on politics in the River City. The Ford family came to power at the decline of the political machine of Boss Crump, and has all but dominated the city ever since. The name Ford appears in both our congressional and state senate delegations, on our county commission, on our city council, and now two Fords are competing for the congressional seat vacated by Harold Ford, Jr., apparently because they feel that the family should own Memphis' seat in Congress forever. A Ford has held that seat for the last three decades.

Harold Ford Jr.'s plan to win a seat in the U.S. Senate appears to be identical to the strategy employed by Boss Crump during his reign of influence: take the black vote for granted while manipulating white Republicans. In order to pay for the massive campaign he will need in order to win any votes from the Republicans in East Tennessee, Ford does favors for the financial services industry, who have rewarded him with massive contributions for his 2006 Senate bid.



From OpenSecrets.org


As of the last reporting period, over half of Ford's campaign contributions came from out of state, and the non-Tennessee city that contributed the largest amount of money to Ford's campaign was New York. Hmmm... Who do you suppose Ford knows in New York City?

"Let me tell you one other thing we did. We are no longer letting Democrats get in a circle and shoot each other. I was just in Tennessee with Harry and with (...) and we have a primary and I stood up there Harold Ford is running and he can become the first African-American elected in the south to the Senate since reconstruction which would be a great thing for America. There is this young woman whose... not so young... but a nice woman running against him but everyone says she is going to attack him."

"...(unintelligible) we are going to intervene if anyone one democrat attacks another, we're doing that in states where there are primaries. "


Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Comments recorded at a private party in Georgia
August 2, 2005

We already know what form that intervention takes. Chuck Schumer hits them where it counts, because as DSCC Chairman, he knows who writes the checks.

National Democratic leaders squashed Paul Hackett's Senate campaign by telling top fundraisers to stop sending him money, the Iraq War veteran said today.

Hackett accused Sen. Charles Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senate campaign committee, of turning from ally to enemy.

"My donor base and host base on both coasts was contacted by elected officials and asked to stop giving," Hackett said. "The original promise to me from Schumer was that I would have no financial concerns. It went from that to Senator Schumer actually working against my ability to raise money."

Hackett: Dems Sabotaged Him
Associated Press
February 14, 2006

The battle lines in the war for the soul of the Democratic Party are not drawn between liberals and conservatives, despite the best efforts of the party leadership to convince you otherwise. Paul Hackett and Rosalind Kurita were both to the right of the majority of their supporters, the so-called "angry left."

What set these two candidates apart from their primary opponents was not their politics, but their authenticity and their status as outsiders. Hackett the Iraq War veteran and Kurita the registered nurse were motivated to serve in the Senate based on their real-world life experience. Their primary opponents, Sherrod Brown and Harold Ford, Jr., are both entrenched party insiders with favors owed to them.

To put it as simply as possible, this is a struggle between the people who want change and the powerful who want to maintain the status quo. The glaring difference between the two situations is that Sherrod Brown has a record as a progressive Democrat, whereas Ford has a record as an opportunist who hitched his wagon to George W. Bush's rapidly fading star.

As of right now, those of us who are awake to what's happening and want change in the Democratic Party are losing the fight. So what are we going to do about it?

First of all, we need to realize that this is a long-term project. Those of us who are so inclined will spend the rest of our lives working to take our party, our city, and our country back. The Republicans have invested thirty years in their agenda to destroy America, and the Democrats were already in a state of disarray when they began. We need to think about what kind of national candidates we want to see in twenty years, and elect them to local office today. Everyone reading this probably already has a few names in mind.

Secondly, we should take account of how far we've come both locally and nationally in the last year. Brad Watkins and DFM have done an outstanding job of guiding the Shelby County Democratic Party back in the right direction, and thanks to Howard Dean, we are becoming a truly national party again. There is reason for hope in spite of the bomb.

Third, we have absolutely got to get real, because our lives depend on it. America is facing problems of cataclysmic proportions, everything from peak oil, global warming, and nuclear war to a failing public school system, job outsourcing, and record levels of consumer debt. The American people, Republicans and Democrats alike, have been fed a steady diet of lies and spin for so long that we've forgotten what the truth tastes like. Distribution of accurate and timely information, especially outside the internet, should be a top priority locally. We can't count on the corporate media to do our jobs for us.

Fourth, and most importantly, we have got to fix our broken democracy. It hardly matters that the primaries are rigged when you can't trust the machines you're using to vote. The Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) that is to be attatched to Shelby County's spanking new Diebold black box voting machines is at best a cosmetic solution. It does nothing to prevent ballot tampering, because the VVPAT is only checked in the event of a recount. Under the law being considered right now in the General Assembly, an automatic recount would only be triggered in the event of a margin of less than half a percent. That's easy enough to get past for someone with their thumb already on the scale.

On a national level, the most obvious place to begin is public campaign financing. Without control of the party's purse-strings, Chuck Schumer could not have successfully wrecked the primary process in the Tennessee and Ohio Senate races, thereby disenfranchising Democratic voters in each state. With a few exceptions, the corporations own our Democratic representatives, and therefore, our party. None of our primary challengers are going to succeed without a level playing field.

Finally, let's all keep two very important things in mind, no matter who you supported. The Kurita supporters who are angry have every right to be, and the Ford supporters still believe that they are supporting a legitimate Democrat. Both of these facts absolutley must be respected if we want to keep this from tearing the Tennessee Democratic Party apart.

I have no respect for Harold Ford Jr. anymore, but I have nothing but respect for people like Chris Jackson and David Bander. I am not on the same team with Ford, but I am on the same team with them. That doesn't mean I'll go silent on Ford's outrages, but it does mean that I am going to be mindful of the fact that I no longer have a dog in this race, and they do.

As a student of history, I am hard-pressed to think of a time since the Civil War when the outlook for America has been this dire. But, as a student of Chinese philosophy, I know that the times of greatest crisis are also the times of greatest opportunity. I'm as mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore. I'm angry because I am witnessing the slow destruction of the best thing I ever had in my life: the democratic republic of the United States of America. I'm mad enough to get up, go out, and do something about it.

So hold on to your rage, Dear Readers, because you're going to need it when we crash the fucking gates. I am sick of machine politics and I want my country back. Don't you?

Want to respond? Send us an email here.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.

Add a comment