Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Empire Strikes Out

In 1996, the people of the Ninth District had every reason to be optimistic. A scandal-ridden but responsive congressman was leaving office. The choices in the primary to replace him both seemed like decent enough choices--- A State Senator named Steve Cohen and the congressman’s own son, Harold Ford Jr.

He looked like his father and spoke like him to a certain degree--- One could look at him and imagine him keeping his nose clean. There was nothing there to imply that he would be the lightning rod for controversy that his father had been.

Voters were given the choice between Ford and Cohen, and they chose Ford.

The seat Cohen and Ford were vying for was a real prize--- One of the safest seats in the nation for a Democratic politician. The winner of the Democratic primary in that seat is always safe to go ahead and pick out office furniture for DC--- They’re going.

That creates the kind of environment where a Democrat can really be a Democrat. A Democrat can be as liberal as Paul Wellstone, Nancy Pelosi, or Ted Kennedy and write his or her own ticket. Harold Ford Sr. had proven that.

We expected that out of his son as well. His first few terms were fairly unspectacular. He did little in the way of sponsoring legislation, and never exactly set the world on fire with his committee assignments. He wasn’t terribly effective, but he could be counted on with his floor votes. And that was enough.

But there was a change. In 2002, his ambition grew beyond the safe confines of the Ninth District. He was asked to stand down and run in 2006.



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