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Maybe We Should Support Harold Ford Jr.’s Race Against Kirsten Gillibrand For the Good of Democracy?

Harold Ford Jr. may be a gay marriage flip-flopper, but might his running against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in a Democratic primary for New York’s U.S. Senate actually be a good thing?

If you love democracy, then sure! Joe Trippi, Howard Dean’s former presidential campaign manager, is making the case for Ford’s primary run, and how it’s good news for everyone. (Well, maybe not Gillibrand.)

Primaries allow for real debate about issues, new solutions and new ideas, and they allow for the challenging of stale thinking that often takes hold in a party’s establishment.

No institution, in Washington or Albany, within either party, should block primaries. And, in the competition of ideas, it is a mistake to block candidacies on ideological grounds. That is something the voters in a party’s primary should be empowered to decide.

That is why I supported Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney when she sought to challenge the Washington party establishment and take on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand earlier this year.

And it is why I, for one, hope Harold Ford Jr. enters the race for U.S. Senate in NY. Democratic voters in New York deserve a choice. And Harold Ford Jr. can give them one.

This is not about ideology. Senator Gillibrand has never been a darling of progressives — she has represented and defended big-tobacco as a corporate lawyer, has had a rating of 100% from the NRA, and on immigration she opposed a path to citizenship as part of reform. Her record has evolved on these and other issues only after she was appointed to the Senate — why should Harold Ford Jr. be held to a different standard by progressives?

And Harold Ford Jr. is far more progressive than people give him credit for. He has always supported civil unions and has come out in support of gay marriage. Throughout his time in Congress he always received high ratings from NARAL and other pro-choice groups.

More to the point, at a time when we suffer double digit unemployment, and with another 82,000 workers who lost their jobs last month alone – Harold Ford Jr. has a strong record of working with working families and labor – fighting for jobs, and small businesses.

At a time when we need new ideas to right our wrecked economy it makes no sense to stifle Harold Ford Jr.’s voice on behalf of working people.

There’s always the argument that Gillibrand was an appointed senator, picked by an unelected governor. So, hey, what’s this novel idea about letting voters choose their elected officials?