THE GREAT RIGHT HOPE

6 10 2005

The rising star of the Democratic Party in Tennessee, Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Memphis, showed his true colors again when he voted for the revisions to the Endangered Species Act, revisions introduced and avidly pushed by the Bush junta and its fascist supporters in Congress. I have a certain sympathy with the property-rights question that this new bill allegedly addresses—as one advocate pointed out, the government pays you when it takes your land for a highway, so why shouldn’t it pay you when it takes your land for a bird?–but the law as passed is wide open for abuse–”I was just about to put a fifty-million dollar resort hotel on this previously barren, worthless stretch of prairie, but now that the golden-crested whatzit has been discovered nesting here, I can’t do that, so please pay me fifty million dollars instead of the ten thou the land is worth without a hotel on it.”

Other provisions of the act are even less consciensable—the end of critical habitat designation, allowing pesticide spraying in endangered species’ habitats (which is what almost killed off the bald eagle), and designating the politically-appointed secretary of the Interior as the person who decides what science to follow, rather than leaving it to—duh—scientists.

Ford, who is angling to replace Bill Frist in the Senate, is doubtless trying to position himself sufficiently to the right to attract Tennessee voters, many of whom find “property rights” a hot-button issue. Too bad animals can’t vote or own property, eh?

Ford’s record is mixed, at best. While he voted against CAFTA, he voted for the Bush administration’s bankruptcy reform bill, which makes it much harder for individuals to get out from under overwhelming debt—which, as I have pointed out before, is frequently generated by the shortcomings of our economic/social system, and was certainly not a vote that helped his predominantly poor constituents.

Ford has also been a strong supporter of the invasion of Poland—excuse me, Iraq, and has been supportive enough of Bush’s attempt to destroy Social Security that, when Bush came to Memphis to try and raise support for “privatization,” he gave Ford 100 tickets to the event to distribute and hailed Ford from the stage. And this is the guy the Democrats are going to run?

To be fair, I’ll have to tell you that when Harold Ford realized how unpopular Bush’s plan was, he lost interest in it—demonstrating that he’s either a realist or an opportunist, depending on how you look at it.

CBC monitor, an internet site that styles itself “the watchdog of the Congressional Black Caucus,” gave Ford the lowest rating of any caucus member—by their lights, he voted in the best interests of black Americas only 5% of the time, in contrast to the likes of John Lewis, Cynthia McKinney, Barbara Lee, and John Conyers, who all earned scores of 100%. But hey, if you’re a black man angling for statewide office in the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan (you knew that about Tennessee, didn’t you?) then politically it may pay off not to be too black.

This little story about Harold Ford illustrates why I’m working to build a strong Green Party here in Tennessee—it’s too hard to tell the Democrats from the Republicans. I like having a party that’s based on principles, not just on a strong desire for power and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get it.

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