Monday, January 25, 2010

This Ford’s in Reverse

How should the Democrats respond to their collapse in Massachusetts? Harold Ford, who wants the Democratic nomination for Senate in New York, says swing to the right: cut taxes, lower our sites on health care, fast-track more foreign workers in high-tech fields (which companies want in order to undercut wages they see as “too high”), and cut government spending.

In other words, be like Republicans, only more civilized.

If voters voted on ideology this would make sense. With the Republicans racing to the right, the median voters ought to be there for the taking. Unfortunately, few people actually vote on ideology. Political preferences are based primarily on identity (who we think are “us” as against “them”), secondarily on narrative. If Democrats reposition themselves as responsible conservatives, it just means that, when they are in power, their policies will be more conservative.


TheTrucker said...

With no respect at all, which I believe is what is due Mr. Ford, President Obama more or less went the opposite direction in his rhetoric today. And I am quite pleased.

The last thing this country needs right now is to move further to the right and allow even more importation of people to compete for American jobs. We need to be doing what is necessary to increase wages and limit imports while creating awareness of what will actrually happen as of the moment the Senate HCR bill it is signed into law. We need to be pointing out that all the controversial and bad and scary things that are in the bill do not take place for another 3 years. And adjustments to the current bill that provide better outcomes to the middle class will be far easier to produce than creating new legislation.

I really get sort of ill when I hear things from supposed Democrats that indicate they believe we went "too far, too fast" on HCR. If we had not gotten that Christmas present through the Senate, HCR would now be dead. As it is, the Democrats now have the opportunity to use actual _reconciliation_ to make _IMPROVEMENTS_ to the _financing_ portion of the Senate bill so as to make the bill much more middle class friendly. The Public Option and the revenue neutral Medicare buy in really do not need to be Reconciliation add ons. Those stand alone bills have 60 to 70 percent support from the middle class and the independents. Those add ons will not be a problem.

r l love said...


I have a class A DL. I have not driven trucks all that much but I did drive a tanker on the oilfields for a few months, and that was a couple of years ago. I joined the hot-roofers union on my 18th birthday. Then too I have worked as a carpenter, a farrier, and I had a log-furniture business for 20 years. But I do not consider myself to be "middle-class".
My father though had similar skills to mine, and he was middle-class.
If you are in fact a "Trucker" you are playing for the wrong team, at least by my standards. If you are not a "Trucker", but are claiming to be one, then you are not being honest. If you think the middle-class is willing pay a driver what they should, in relation to what they think they are worth, you are mistaken. They do not consider a person's contribution as criteria. They draw their lines based on education with a disregard for all other factors.

Charley said...

I would suggest we need to move beyond the right-left divide. This so-called spectrum of political thought is nothing more than a bastardized post-war knock-off of 18th Century French politics.

Under the original version of that spectrum, the existing order was the extreme right, and the opponents to that order were more or less distributed to its left based on the severity of their opposition to the existing order - the ancien regime, the Monarchy.

The Monarchy was the status quo, the establishment.

Using that original political meaning, the Washington Bipartisan Consensus is the extreme right. The most conservative one can be in any political situation is to believe there is no need for any change to the status quo.

When Ford says he wants to move to the center, he is in fact saying he wants as little change as possible to the status quo. When Democrats declare their intention to reach across the aisle, as Kerry did on cap and trade today, they are implicitly offering only the kind of change that is consistent with the status quo.

Part of the problem with the use of the terms left and right, is that it allows this extremely conservative status quo to represent itself as the moderate alternative to "extremists", when it is, in fact, the most extreme resistance to any change at all.

Another part of the problem is that it allows many opponents of the status quo to divide themselves into completely false mirror images of each other, when, in fact, they have much in common. While they divide themselves up according to one nut case solution or another - the "right" with it demands for gold money, property rights, laissez faire, and the left with its equally silly demand that people be paid to not work, that government incur every increasing debt in pursuit of job creation, and the embrace of every new crack pot idea for government spending to appear on the scene - what they share, and what places them both on the left side of the classical political spectrum is their unrelenting opposition to the status quo.

Perhaps, someday they will all wake up and discover this truth, but don't hold your breath.

TheTrucker said...

Blogger r l love said...

"If you are in fact a "Trucker" you are playing for the wrong team, at least by my standards. If you are not a "Trucker", but are claiming to be one, then you are not being honest. If you think the middle-class is willing pay a driver what they should, in relation to what they think they are worth, you are mistaken. They do not consider a person's contribution as criteria. They draw their lines based on education with a disregard for all other factors."

Prior to retiring a few years ago I drove for 5 years and operated in each and every one of the lower 48 states during that time. Prior to my trucking "career" I ran my own technical consulting business for 30 years. Then came the Republicans and the invasion of H1B's. When I started as a computer hardware tech on the late 60's there was no such thing as a computer science degree. I learned electronics in the navy and Control Data sent me to computer training. I learned software on my own.

But when the H1B's hit I ended up driving and have fond memories of it. I rented out my house, lived in the truck and did OK. I worked my 100 hours a week and logged 70 like a typical trucker but I had health insurance and a place to sleep and paid down the note on my house. I was a true long hauler. My average length of load was over 1200 miles and I saw a lot of very beautiful country.

As to my being on "the wrong side" I am somewhat confused by that claim. I have a true respect for representative government and justice. Republicans need not apply. And BTW: I never finished high school and never missed it.

But now its later in the day and I see that our illustrious leader is all head up to blather about fiscal constraint in his state of the union address. There is no haven of sanity in this world. "We are going to help the middle class", says he. "They are the new poor so we will pay them to have more kids". Help is when you actually send out stimulus checks and actually insist on infrastructure development and you tax incomes in excess of 5 million quite heavily and incomes in excess of 10 million at more than 50% and incomes of more than 20 million at 80%. You offer tax shelters in thorium nuclear, wind, solar, biofuels, and public transportation. And then you apply an across the board import duty of 5% and send it out as a stimulus also. That's how you help the middle class without creating enormous unsustainable deficits. It matters who and what is taxed.

Barkley Rosser said...

Regarding Ford, my understanding is that the incumbent Gilibrand is already a very conservative, upstate Dem by New York standards, although I have not seen her pulling any Lieberman or Ben Nelson shenanigans. New York is supposed to go even further right than her? Has she tacked far enough left to stave off any primary opponent from that direction? What is with Ford anyway? I know New York has had a tendency to elect outsiders to the Senate, but he is no Bobby Kennedy or Hillary Clinton.

Suffern AC said...

One might also try to push back and offer a compelling counter narrative. Or one might go the way of the Dodo.

The New York Times and several wealthy democrats don't like Chuck Schumer, so they've decided that it would be fun to run Harold Ford against his protege, in the name of offering an independent voice. That's good news for me, since I now have this Ford guy served up to me as a serious candidate to be my Senator.

I don't know what Kirstin Gillenbrand has done to deserve this, except that being the first Senator from "Upstate" (not the City) in a while is somehow troubling. When she was appointed Senator, she changed her positions to match those of Chuck Schumer, and like him or hate him, he has only won elections since 1981 without a loss, so he might know the voters of this state well.

The Times reported that he came up to visit my part of the state just the other day to deliver this same message: that it is time to move to the right (gosh, they used to tell us to move to the center). Forgetting that only 2 years ago, the State elected by overwhelming majorities a man who made his name for "going after" white collar criminals and bankers, do they really think that coming to voters this year with a message that "banking is important to the New York Economy" delivered by a candidate who currently works for Bank of America is going to resonate with the voters? Or that when people think that they have been robbed blind by rascals on Wall Street, that they will respond to calls to solve our problems by cutting the corporate and capital gains tax rates?

The NYT is the paper of the New York City elite and reflects its opinion, and its opinion of people outside of Manhattan or anywhere down on the social pyramid is what would expected from a sneering Northeast high-hair elite. They think upstate people are dumb rubes who might as well be living in Kansas for all their backward ways. Harold Ford is writing to that audience, where his funding will come, so I am guessing that he knows what that audience wants. The Times gets "exclusives" and gets to write silly articles about how Ford's use of the word "schmear" instead of "smear" might have a bearing on the election. The Daily News notes that he doesn't actually know how big the State budget is; The Times hides that information down near the bottom of its "profile," and runs stories about him leaving the City to get to know the state as if any time Harold Ford takes a trip it is news.

Like any statewide election in New York, this is going to be about who is acceptable to both upstate and city voters, not some referendum on the future soul of the democratic party. If Harold Ford wants to write op-ed pieces introducing himself to New Yorkers as some master political strategist of national importance, and the Times wants to take him seriously, I don't think there is really much to worry about.

If I were Kirstin Hillenbrand, I would just run against him as the person who isn't currently an employee of Bank of America and make this a referendum on whether or not the New York Times gets to choose candidates. I would not make this some kind of referendum on the future direction of the national party. Does the New York Times actually think voters care about the future of the party?

Suffern AC said...


I was wondering if this Ford thing wasn't an attempt to shore up Gillibrand (sorry, I got her name wrong. Kristin Hillinbrand was in High School with me. Kirstin Gillibrand is the Senator.) I know she was supposed to be conservative and "electable" which is why she was appointed to her seat. Having a "conservative" challenger might have been some kind of con to rally progressives around her. I doubt it. Honestly, the Times thinks she is a bumpkin from nowheresville and is covering Ford in hopes that he wins.

She came from a conservative district in Congress and her views on things like gun control reflected that, but this is not going to be an election about gun control. She has changed some of her positions progressive, but New Yorkers wouldn't ever be able to elect anyone to state-wide office if we didn't pretend to look the other way when politicians had changes of heart when they ran in state-wide elections. Ford has done major flip flops on all the social issues too. I don't know if that will be the issue.

The liberals cried foul when she was appointed to the open seat. I thought there might be a left challenge, but I doubt it. Ford throwing down the line to paint her positions as too liberal for the voters of Massachusetts is rather funny. She's probably too liberal for the voters of Texas as well, but she isn't running there. He also is trying to paint her as too beholden to the party in Washington. O.K. But he was in Washington for 10 years, chairs the DLC and appears on TV as a democratic analyst all the time. The only reason he can claim that he is an outsider is that he just moved to the state and is currently not an office holder.

If Kirstin can't beat this guy, she probably was not meant to hold any office. I've moved from "meh" on her to "want her to win somewhat."

I am finding this whole "Harold Ford gets to know New York" thing a little condescending. It actually represents a big part of what is wrong with our political coverage. Seriously, an article that devotes time "smear" vs. "schmear" an issue that only concerns media snobs.

One big difference between Ford and Clinton as carpetbagger candidates...when Clinton was in office the Times joined in the long line of MSM outlets manufacturing scandals and covering her rather contemptuously. I think that kind of stuff helped us like her more, as we have all had crappy articles written about our lives by the writers of the New York Times.

Peter H said...

Gilibrand has moved to the left since she got the Senate seat.

r l love said...


Undocumented workers are not allowed to drive trucks and so this may well be the distinction that puts truckers in the middle-class. Carpentry is far more difficult than truck-driving, physically and mentally, but here in the Southwest, the carpenters earn a little less than drivers. 30 years ago this was the opposite and by a wider margin. But it is unlikely that laws regarding class A DL requirements will be ignored and so you are probably correct in thinking that truckers belong in the middle-class. When the bureaucrats stand to benefit by doing nothing they can exact a great deal of influence although they must share the same roads with truckers and so they will continue to protect themselves. Then too, there is the "us" and "them" factor which Peter mentioned, and, truckers mostly sit and are necessarily inactive, so with 20% of the workforce being employed in some governing capacity, truckers fall into this "us" grouping as "sitters".
It seems then that I had truckers in the wrong class. But the roles that people play are being manipulated and the changes are happening rather quickly by historical terms, and so many of these changes defy logic. Finding the correct designation for 'truckers' though, does make it all a little less confusing.

TheTrucker said...

r l love:

We seem to be working from a different definition of "middle class". You seem to want to divide the "middle class" from the "working class". I don't typically make that distinction. For me the term "middle class" will typically include the 3 income quintiles in the middle of the population. Not the upper or lower 20%. And most of the "working class" and many of the "entrepreneurial class" are encompassed by the term "middle class". I often use the term "producer class" as a more descriptive terminology. These are the people who are making a contribution to the society. The top and the bottom are supprted by the actual producers.