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Joanne Bamberger

Joanne Bamberger

Posted: January 12, 2010 01:54 PM

Harold Ford vs. Kirsten Gillibrand -- Who's the Real Bully?

What's Your Reaction:

I've had some interesting comments in E-mail discussions, Facebook posts, Twitter and other places about my last post on the attempts being made by former Congressman Harold Ford and his cadre of wealthy backers to push Kirsten Gillibrand out of her seat in the U.S. Senate. Because Gillibrand was appointed as Hillary Clinton's replacement, a special election will be held this fall to decide who gets to fill the remaining two years from Clinton's term.

A variety of people wondered about my motivations for writing the post, suggesting that maybe I didn't like Ford because he's only lived in New York for three years (we all know that worked for a Kennedy and a Clinton!). Or that I have a problem with his race (I voted for Obama). Or that I'm a man-hater (Mr. PunditMom will stick up for me on that one). Or that I shouldn't have an opinion because I don't live in New York (though I did call Utica home for a while many years ago).

I have to laugh, only because I thought I had made myself pretty clear. Ford shouldn't be in the Senate race for Gillibrand's seat because we have enough men with Wall Street ties and money on Capitol Hill, and we don't have enough women to represent us in Washington, especially women who are pro-choice.

We all know there are only 18 women in Senate and only about 17 percent of Congress is female, so as a woman I feel I have some standing to say what I think about keeping the ones we have and pointing out the back story for anyone who's challenging the few women we have. Until we have equity in representation in Washington, state houses, governor's offices and other elected positions, we'll never have issues that impact us the most put on the front burner.

For example, it's nice that we got the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act when President Obama came into office, but that doesn't require employers to pay us fair wages; it only expands our right to sue our employers for back pay if we find out we've been getting paid less than men in the same jobs. Updates to the Equal Pay Act were cut from the Senate bill and have yet to see the light of day.

Why is fair pay still an issue and not getting attention? While I haven't taken a poll to confirm the data, I would suggest it's because no man on Capitol Hill ever got paid less than a woman.

Paid sick leave and child care legislation? I'm betting that hasn't made much progress because we have so few young families represented in Congress who have to deal with sick children, school, day care and aging parents. Gillibrand is one of the few women on Capitol Hill with little children -- how refreshing to have someone who's had the same experiences so many of us deal with daily and having her input on legislation on those issues.

I'm not the only one who's been raising some questions, and in response to them Ford has been lashing out. It's laughable and upsetting to me that Ford claims he is being "bullied" by Gillibrand, making references to party bosses trying to exert influence against him. If being the head of the Democratic Leadership Council and having the backing of the fundraising chair of the DNC isn't having connections with party "bosses," I'm not sure what is. As for bullying, Gillibrand is an incumbent protecting her turf and standing up to someone whose ideas are at odds with hers.

That's politics, my friends.

Ford's comments make me wonder if he isn't using some bully tactics of his own to increase support for himself as he tries to see how much support Gillibrand really has and whether he can make a play for New York, even though he lost the last Senate race in Tennessee. It sort of reminds of the scene in A Christmas Story (which is still fresh in my memory after the 24-hour holiday cable marathon!) where Ralphie stands up to the neighborhood bully and lives to tell the tale.

In striking back, Ralphie looked a little bit like he became the bully, but he was really just standing his ground because he was tired of being pushed around and wasn't going to take it anymore. I'm pretty sure that unless we're willing to stand our ground, we will never get our numbers above 20 percent in the House or the Senate.

As I said, no candidate is perfect and I don't agree with Senator Gillibrand's stand on gun control or some of her Blue Dog background, but we can't lose another supporter of reproductive rights in the Senate. And we especially can't let Ann Coulter's favorite Democrat take the seat from someone we know will be there on this fight -- and others.

We really don't need anymore "Democrats" who are going to be closet Republicans on most issues.


So why is Ford really crying "foul" as people object to his efforts to run for the seat held by Gillibrand? I certainly don't believe that someone who's survived Tennessee politics is afraid of a few sharp elbows. My guess is that he isn't happy to have anyone pointing out that he is more a Republican in Democrat's clothing than anything else.

Joanne Bamberger is the founder and editor of the political blog, PunditMom. A writer and political/new media analyst, Joanne also writes at MOMocrats and MomsRising. Her book on increasing political involvement of mothers will be published in the fall (Bright Sky Press).

 

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