I watched the television debate tonight by the three candidates running to represent Tennessee's Ninth District, Democrat Steve Cohen, Republican Mark White, and "Independent Democrat" Jake Ford, and I am upset. Not with my candidate Senator Cohen; he was succinct, knowledgeable, and showed a mastery over the issues; explained how he was the "real" Democrat in the race, and pointed out every falsity the Ford machine has thrown at him, all the while expressing his support for Junior's Senatorial bid. Cohen also refused to rise to the bait when young Ford attempted to distort his record, and Jake "Fraud" could only say in rebuttal, "he's too liberal, liberal, liberal." What a day when a candidate from the Ford family attempts to paint his opponent as "too liberal," for the District.
I backed Cohen in 1996 when he lost the congressional seat to Harold Ford, Jr. and was disappointed at his statements that a white candidate could not get fair consideration in the African-American community. Cohen has said in this campaign that his remarks ten years ago were from frustration and disappointment, but he has never wavered in his support for all candidates fairly elected in the Democratic Primary. After last night's debate, perhaps Cohen's election analysis of 1996 was more accurate than anyone thought. When Joe Ford, Jr. is fairly beaten in the primary, but Harold Ford, Sr. places his unqualified and undereducated son, Jake, in the general election as an independent stop-gap to preserve the family seat, there is something racist and obscene about such tactics that should be harshly dealt with not just from the State Democratic Committee, but from the DNC itself.
The headline of the debate came from Republican Mark White, and it's a slogan Cohen should use for the remainder of this campaign. When asked by Norm Brewer how he felt about Ford's independent candidacy, White replied, "I'm tickled pink that Jake Ford is in this race." And he looked it too, both pink and tickled. Ford claims to be an "Independent Democrat" and he has the backing of a group of ministers as well as some community leaders that actually don't feel that Cohen is too liberal for the district, he's too white. That's the self-admitted excuse for this group's allegiance to Jake Ford's candidacy, and Harold Ford, Sr.'s influence.
I have voted in every election since 1972, and some of those votes were for Harold Ford, Sr., Otis Higgs, D'Army Bailey, Willie Herenton, and A C Wharton. I have never felt these gentlemen were too "black" to represent me, and deserved my vote because of their qualifications. I did not vote for Junior in 1966 and I have been dismayed with the number of times he has voted with the Republican majority. The source of my disappointment in Junior's voting record is that I feel he really doesn't agree with the Patriot Act, for instance, but he does it because he is ambitious and eager to please the conservative voters of middle and east Tennessee. But how are you going to out-conservative a Bush man like Corker? Junior's strategy is to have his more "liberal" voters understand him while he conducts himself like another Joe Lieberman in dealing with the Bush regime, and his true Democratic colors will emerge once he's elected; unless, of course, he begins compromising his values in an immediate run at the Presidency.
I propose a remedy. After Frist, no one wants "Frist Lite." So my plan was always to hold my nose and vote for Ford. But I don't like it, and I am not above withholding my vote for him in the Senate until or unless he backs Cohen for the Congress. Although the latest polls show Ford, Jr. up a few points in his race, I would like for Democrats to insist through their local, state, and national committees, that if Harold Ford, Sr. doesn't cease and desist with his manipulation of the election in the Ninth District by attempting to split the Democratic vote, then real Democrats will withhold their votes for Junior in the Senate. This cynical maneuver to sneak his son into Congress' by undermining Cohen's candidacy is all about Harold Ford, Sr.'s power as a lobbyist in Washington and not for the betterment of the district, but for the family Ford.
In reality, Democrats have their best chance to reclaim power in the House rather than the Senate in November, and Cohen was a prohibitive favorite until the Jake Ford trick. Harold, Jr. has a tougher race and needs all the votes from West Tennessee that he takes for granted that he already has. Every Democrat should demand the support of their party for Senator Cohen. And I don't believe it is too much to demand party discipline for Harold Ford, Sr., who after all, built his political dynasty through the efforts of the Democratic Party. The party should unequivocally back their candidates straight down the line, and if they are too afraid of the Ford machine to act, the voters should take it upon themselves. I favor circulating an online petition, of which I will be the first signee, that says in effect to Harold Ford, Sr. that if you continue to push an independent candidate merely because his name is Ford, I will refuse to vote for another candidate merely because his name is Ford, and I mean Junior. I would prefer throwing the Senatorial election to Corker before I allow Harold Ford, Sr. to be the Ralph Nader of Memphis, and pass off another dubious member of his family as someone who is dedicated to public service, when opportunism is his sole motivation.
The petition should be forwarded to Democratic Party offices and precincts in the entire state. Democratic voters should be aware that Harold Ford, Sr. is using all his influence and power to see that one Ford enters Congress through the front door, while the other enters through the back. I will not stand for it. Neither should you. There are thirty days left to become vocal on this issue. Cohen did his job at the debate. It's time for true Democrats not to just speak up, but shout it out loud, "No support for Cohen? Then no support for Junior."