Few could be less qualified to interpret the public’s disaffected mood than Harold Ford, the would-be Senator from Merrill Lynch, so naturally The Wall Street Journal has given him a platform to do just that. After all, who better to interpret the message of populist discontent than an investment banker whose acquaintance with the people he wants to represent extends to seeing them on the ground as his company executive’s helicopter flies overhead?
Peter Beinart has already leveled a devastating critique against Ford’s potential primary challenge to the appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:
He knows nothing about New York. What he knows about is the American overclass, a large chunk of which happens to reside in the Empire State. His campaign is the brainchild, in large measure, of rich donors who went searching for someone to run against interim Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. His economic agenda consists of defending Washington’s bailout of Wall Street, proposing a large corporate tax cut, and opposing caps on executive pay.
Nothing could be more at odds with the public mood and more removed from the dissatisfaction voters expressed last Tuesday than Ford’s agenda of keeping Washington safe for Wall Street. Some of Ford’s proposals might have arguments in their favor, but taken all together and combined with his last-minute parachuting into New York politics they represent a blatant insult to the voters. Even a majority of Scott Brown’s voters believe that Democratic economic policy is oriented towards helping Wall Street, and this is clearly not viewed favorably. It is not as if Democrats in Washington need another member of Congress who is quite eager to make government policy even more agreeable to his banking and investment colleagues. It is particularly rich that he now presents himself as someone who will be an “independent” representative of his constituents, when his entire agenda and the backing for his candidacy show that he has no capacity for independence at all.
What could be more unlike Brown’s candidacy than a carpetbagger backed by wealthy interests who is coming in to oust a New York-born politician from his own party? Who is more poorly positioned to connect with voters dissatisfied and distrustful of major institutions than a member of the distrusted financial industry who thinks that his own, newly-adopted city is just another part of “flyover country”? Democrats may have laughed at Brown’s slogan that he lives in Wrentham and drives a truck, but clearly it resonated to some extent with voters. Just imagine how negatively voters will respond to Ford, the limousine “centrist” who eats at luxury hotels when he happens to be in town.