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While national blogs and political blogs here in Tennessee have been breathlessly speculating over whether our former Congressman, Harold Ford (DLC-Whichever state is most politically convenient) will run for U.S. Senate from New York against Kirsten Gillibrand over the last few days, one of the big questions being asked is how his conservative Southern views could possibly resonate with the much more liberal New York Democratic base.  If his statement to Ben Smith of Politico on how he would improve the healthcare bill is any indication, we could have an answer--he's going to attempt one of the biggest political flip-flops in recent memory:

"He wants to improve the health care bill so he can vote for it, addressing the concerns of Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson, so New York gets its fair share, removing anti-abortion language, and protecting more small businesses from mandates," Goldin said.

Jump below to understand why this rankles me to my core.

First, some background.  Those of you who were around on this site in 2006 may recall that I was one of Harold Ford's biggest cheerleaders.  I was a bright-eyed intern (the commenters who accused me of being a paid shill were only half-right!) on the campaign trail, and refused to listen to anyone who said that Harold Ford was anything less than the almighty savior of Tennessee Democrats.  Even if I was personally far to the left of him, I was determined to get a Democrat into that seat.

But the Harold Ford I worked for in 2006 wouldn't have wanted to remove the anti-abortion language from the healthcare bill, had he been elected to the Senate.  In fact, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that had he been elected to the Senate, not only would he have fervently supported the Stupak-Nelson amendments, he may very well have been one of the legislators who refused to vote for the healthcare bill unless it had the strictest possible anti-choice language.

You don't have to dig very deeply into his record to come to that conclusion, but fortunately, NARAL Pro-Choice New York did so for me:

If he was "proudly pro-life" only four years ago, then I do think it's a fair question what made him see the light and determine that not only should the government not be in the business of restricting reproductive liberty, the government also should not mandate that certain reproductive procedures cannot be covered under a national healthcare plan.

Really, it'd be one thing to simply say he's now pro-choice.  But to take it so far as to insist on removing the anti-choice language be removed from the healthcare bill--well, that's a flip-flop on the issue if I ever saw one.

He must realize that the issue is going to be a dealbreaker with him among a good portion of the New York Democratic base.  Kirsten Gillibrand has strongly opposed the Stupak and Nelson Amendments, and he can hardly expect to win by running to the right of her on this issue.

Perhaps if it were just the abortion issue, it might not be too difficult to explain a change of heart.  But of course, it's not just abortion, it's pretty much every other issue, including his strong support for free-trade agreements which are very unpopular upstate.  Not to mention his recent stint as a Wall Street executive, which isn't even all that popular in New York City right now.  Just ask Michael Bloomberg.

This may just be a hunch, but I get the feeling we're in for several more issue flip-flops from Harold Ford, which will be explained as "necessary when representing a much more conservative area."  Never mind that his district promptly elected a much more liberal Congressman after he left, and that Ford held on to these positions throughout his tenure as chairman of the DLC.  It could also very well be that he never really believed in these positions to begin with, he just held onto them as long as politically necessary.  But how will the average New York voter feel about someone who is either far to the right of them and pretending not to be, or alternatively, someone whose conservative political past was simply a schtick?

Give me an honest conservative Democrat over a schtick any day.

You want to know what else really pisses me off?

"He wants to improve the health care bill so he can vote for it, addressing the concerns of Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson, so New York gets its fair share, removing anti-abortion language, and protecting more small businesses from mandates," Goldin said.

It's great that New York will have someone in the Senate to represent its interests in the healthcare bill, either way.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, aka Harold Ford's home state:

On the far-right Mike Church Show on the Sirius radio network this week, Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet, said she may introduce legislation purporting to let Tennessee declare null and void any federal law the state deems unconstitutional. She said she would target the pending health-care reform legislation as the first federal law to nullify.

She also said she favors a state constitutional amendment giving citizens the right to choose their own health care.

“We have to do both,” Lynn said. “We have to have a law immediately, and then we also have to have a constitutional amendment to protect our citizens through our constitution.”

The inmates teabaggers have taken over the asylum state legislature.  We have Lamar! and Corkscrew in the Senate, both of whom are sticking to the Party of No's line.  In the House, our most outspoken Congressman (who prefers that term even though she's a lady) is a slightly less crazed version of Michelle Bachmann.  On the Democratic side, we have Steve Cohen, two Blue Dogs who are retiring, and Jim Cooper and Lincoln Davis.  Nuff said.

Oh, and we have a Democratic governor, too.  He's let it be known what he thinks of healthcare reform.

I'm glad that Harold Ford thinks he can stand up for quality healthcare for New Yorkers.  I went to college upstate, I know that people throughout the state can certainly use some help.  But it would be nice if someone--perhaps someone who is still widely regarded as one of the most influential Democrats in the state--would stand up for Tennessee's interests as well.

But I guess we're not politically convenient enough.

UPDATE:  Rec list?  Really?  This site has REALLY gone downhill from back in my day ;)

Originally posted to GoldnI on Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 02:55 PM PST.

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