Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Tennessee Ninth

Nikki Tinker is challenging incumbent Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) in the Democratic primary in the Tennessee 9th. And she sounds like she's deliberately trying to set back Black/Jewish relations for decades. The Tennessee 9th is approximately 60% African-American, but it is currently represented by White Jew Rep. Steve Cohen, who took over the seat from Harold Ford when the latter ran for Senate in 2006. Cohen has gained some measure of fame for seeking to become the first White member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and more recently, for securing passage of an official House apology for slavery and Jim Crow.

The primary challenge, on its own, is not the problem -- that's Tinker's prerogative. But the campaign she's running is absolutely vicious and slimy. Early on in the campaign a flier was distributed by an out-of-district pastor saying that "Steve Cohen and the Jews HATE Jesus." Tinker was slow to condemn the statements, sparking condemnation from local press, but she did deny (and I believe her) that the materials had no connection to her campaign.

But now she's decided that she'll take matters into her own hands. Her last two ads (the primary is tomorrow) have both sought to create and exploit identity tensions. In this one, she ties Cohen (winner of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Award of Excellence for Public Service) to the KKK. Memphis' largest paper characterized it as "despicable" and said it was "appealing to our worst instincts." The paper said it was part of general trend by "Tinker supporters ... framing Thursday's election as a black-white contest or a division between African-Americans and Jews."

And to drive that point home, Tinker released another ad lambesting Cohen for voting against school prayer even "While he's in our churches" (emphasis definitely in the original). Swing State Project said it was a "Nice anti-Semitic dog-whistle... although it seems the Tinker campaign accidentally grabbed the bullhorn instead of the dog-whistle on the way out the door." And TPM said it "just might be the nastiest, most race-baiting (and Jew-baiting) ad of the entire cycle."

I have not seen any polling in the district; but the vibe I'm getting is that Cohen is a narrow favorite to keep his seat. If he loses though, it will "start a conversation", to say the least, and one I wish that we did not need to have.

4 comments:

Joe said...

"Tinker was slow to condemn the statements, sparking condemnation from local press, but she did deny (and I believe her) that the materials had no connection to her campaign."

Freudian slip much?

Superdestroyer said...

Isn't this the problem when Congressional disricts that are drawn up and approved by the Justice Departmetn in order to elect blacks and then a black does not win.

Also, as the Repubican Party collapses, isn't this the future politics. AS the Republican Party collapses, the real elections will all be in the Democratic Primary. In a state where you can win with a plurality, a white can win in a Democratic primary with less than 50% of the vote. Cohen won the first time because the black vote was split amont several blacks in the Democratic Primary. This time there is only two andidates.

Cycle Cyril said...

This is the problem of identity politics.

Whenever you emphasis the need for representation by the "color of their skin" rather than the "content of their character" you will have campaigns that devolve and avoid issues of policy and character to focus on slurs and innuedoes.

This a recurrent event in Democratic party politics and will continue until significant changes are made. Further, since when identity politics are played, a play based on what can I get for my group without regard to others or the "Laws of Nature", there is always a need for a scapegoat that has usurped their position. This is one of the reasons why Jews and Israel are so often attacked by the left.

Joe said...

Seriously though, that double negative I quoted is still there and bugging the piss out of me.