Thursday, February 14, 2008


    Volunteer State Hate (WSJ-BOTW)
    Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee is a rarity in Congress: a white lawmaker representing a majority-black district. First elected in 2006 to fill the vacant seat of Harold Ford Jr., Cohen faces a primary challenge this summer from a black candidate, Nikki Tinker. The Washington Post's Mary Ann Akers reports that the campaign against Cohen has gotten unusually ugly:

    "Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen and the JEWS HATE Jesus," blares the flier, which Cohen himself received in the mail--inducing gasps--last week.

    Circulated by an African-American minister from Murfreesboro Tenn., which isn't even in Cohen's district, the literature encourages other black leaders in Memphis to "see to it that one and ONLY one black Christian faces this opponent of Christ and Christianity in the 2008 election."

    Akers also quotes from an editorial in the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

    Last summer Cohen came under attack from black ministers who challenged the congressman's support for federal hate crimes legislation to protect gay rights. The paper wrote that the "real motive" behind the ministers' attacks was revealed later by Rev. Robert Poindexter who, according to the Commercial Appeal, said of Cohen: "He's not black and he can't represent me, that's just the bottom line."

    Poindexter seems to have a misconception about the nature of political representation in a democratic republic--namely, that his congressman's job is to represent him "as a black" rather than as a citizen. Yet it is this same misrepresentation that has led to deliberate efforts to draw "majority minority" districts like the one Cohen now defends.

    As for the anti-Semitic flier, it is evidence of the folly of thinking that a society can practice identity politics without opening itself up to the ugly side of such politics.

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