OPINION: Is Harold Ford Jr. Trying To Be The Next Barack Obama?

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When President Obama was elected, it only took a few weeks for Ty, Inc to start producing Sasha and Malia dolls.   The little clones were taken off the market as soon as Michelle Obama objected, but it appears that the Democrats are now producing clones of Michelle’s husband, Barack.

Meet Harold Ford Jr., a former congressman from Tennessee who has now become the next Barack Obama, at least in the eyes of enthusiastic Democrats.  Ford has recently moved to New York and is positioning himself to fight for the Senate Seat currently held by Kirsten Gillibrand, a New Yorker who hasn’t exactly won over her constituency.   Ford has the horse power to win, and can raise the money to do it.  Such a move would represent a significant step in his quest to become President of the United States.  Yes, I did say “President.”

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As the “Great Black Hope” of the Democratic Party, Harold Ford Jr. gives many of his supporters both the visual and political cues necessary for them to think that he should be the next Barack:  Both Obama and Ford are light-skinned.  They are both “articulate and well-behaved” black men who attended Ivy League institutions.  They are both prototypical politicians: the guys you neither like nor dislike too much.   And to be quite honest, neither Ford nor Obama take tough stands on much of anything unless it happens to be the fashionable thing to stand up for at that particular time.  But then again, these men are not black leaders, they are black politicians.  The job requirements are different.

I must confess that I’ve always been skeptical of career politicians and career pastors, since I believe that life experience should help to form the disposition necessary for you to truly connect to the issues that matter to the people.   Harold Ford Jr. made a seamless transition from student to political figure and this worries me.  A man who can fail the bar exam while simultaneously planning a run for the House of Representatives hardly represents the standard black experience in America.  At the same time, given his family background, it is easy to see that Ford has been well-trained in the subtleties of American politics at the highest level.  To some extent, his family is black royalty, with a powerbase that goes back to the 19th century.

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Another similarity between Ford and Obama is that black people love them without conditions, concessions or even thorough explanation.  But then again, there is a reason for African Americans to support Harold Ford Jr:  He represents the traditional conservative Christian values of the black community, while simultaneously being liberal on issues such as the death penalty and drug policy.  Harold Ford Sr., the father of the Ford Jr., is now the mayor of Shelby County, surrounding Memphis, which has an enormous black population.  Ford just ordered the gas and electric company to keep the heat on for every resident of the county, even if they can’t pay their bill.  So, to some extent, in spite of his privileged background, Ford Jr. may carry a populist tradition that many Americans can respect (including myself).

Ford was a relatively conservative politician in Tennessee, and a move to New York will likely make him more liberal.  Rather than speaking against gay marriage in the south, he will be sipping lattes with the New York elite while discussing trendy issues like green jobs and closing Guantanamo Bay.  He will become the liberal that New York Democrats need him to be.

My instincts say that Harold Ford Jr. wants to be President of the United States.  Being 39-years old, I imagine that he sees 48-year old Barack Obama as himself in nine years, and so do many of his supporters.  A man who grows up in a family of powerful politicians typically expects to take the game to the next level.   Harold Ford represents the next level for both his family and America, and that is why he is the “Great Black Hope.”

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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