Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Content of Their Character

Since I live in Tennessee's Ninth District, I received an interesting piece of mail today from the Nikki Tinker for Congress Campaign, co-sponsored by Emily's List. Since Ms. Tinker is a political novice running for an important representational office, I would think any slick mailers would be for the purpose of introducing the candidate and enunciating her views on local and national issues. But the picture on the cover was that of State Senator Steve Cohen. They used to say that any publicity is good publicity, but this desperate attack from Ms. Tinker borders on the scurrilous. This shows that any organization such as Emily's List, that ordinarily does good work, in their zeal to promote an attractive woman candidate, can sometimes overlook the best candidate.

Ms. Tinker's flyer attacks the attendance record of Senator Cohen between 1998 and 2004, conveniently overlooking the fact that those of us who put him in the State Senate know that he has been there for 24 years. There was corporate money spent to say in her ad that "Senator Cohen led efforts to allow sex shops to stay open on Sunday." To make such a bizarre accusation, regardless of which postscript of obscure legislation that you pulled it from, reeks of desperation. In fact, it seems like a campaign engineered by Karl Rove. To attempt to somehow link Steve Cohen with sex shops is laughable, but the brochure contains a lurid color photograph of a eerie green, neon sign that says "Sex Shop; Projections," and questions Senator Cohen's ability to fight for "our families" in Congress. Ms. Tinker also combed through Cohen's votes and found he declined to grant money above that budgeted for some unnamed "K-12 Education Funding." In fact, every college student who benefits from the Hope Scholarship, be they male or female, black, white or Asian, and whether the institution is a state university or a community college, should say, "Thank you, Steve Cohen, for your years of persistence in creating the Tennessee lottery." I know I do. My stepson attends Christian Brothers University and receives a grant from the Hope Scholarship which is projected to produce a billion dollars in four years. So what is Ms. Tinker really trying to say?

I think that "content of their character" speech by Dr. King in 1963 didn't sink in with some people. A July 5 edition of the Tri-State Defender ran a banner headline asking, "White Chocolate, or opportunist; can Sen. Steve Cohen represent Black people?" The article points out that since 1974 the Ninth Congressional District has elected an African-American to represent them and proceeds to chronicle the struggle of Black people through the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. Rev. Benjamin Hooks is quoted as saying a Cohen victory would be devastating for Memphis' majority population. Of course Steve Cohen can represent Black people. The problem is the Ford family dynasty has controlled the seat for so long that they believe they own it. In the crowded race to succeed Harold Ford, Jr. in Congress, there is a Ford brother, a Ford cousin, and Ms. Tinker, widely known to be Harold, Jr.'s campaign manager, advisor and protege. Judging from Junior's Congressional record, where he voted to ban same-sex civil unions and against raising the minimum wage, it often appeared as if he were positioning himself with conservative Republicans to make himself more palatable to a national audience. Ms. Tinker's campaign slogan was "Running for the right reasons." If her voting attitude reflects that of her mentor's, those are the very "right reasons" that I'm afraid of.

From Julian Bolton's comments about Mr. Cohen's "complexion," to the hysterical ravings of TaJuan Stout Mitchell, the African American political community has launched a "Stop Cohen" campaign filled with the same sort of racist arguments that white candidates used to make in the bad old days. Consider this excerpt from a letter to the Memphis Commercial Appeal; "The candidate's ideology should represent the majority of residents in the district rather than the majority of the votes in an overcrowded race. Most Ninth District residents do not support same-sex marriage, the legalization of drugs, Sunday liquor sales and restricted prayer, and some citizens do not support the lottery. Most of the district's constituents are of the Christian faith and would be offended by an elected official who would vote to curtail their free expression of religion or suggest that a pastor be told not to say, 'In the name of Jesus.'" If you read that comment on it's own without knowing the author or the context, you might think it was someone in league with Jerry Falwell or Tom DeLay. But it's old fashioned fear-mongering by Councilwoman Stout Mitchell. Only Ms. Mitchell ads the touch of reminding voters that Sen. Cohen is not Christian. In fact, it will be refreshing to vote for someone who will be a genuine liberal Democrat in Washington, and not someone who tempers his votes with an ambitious eye toward national office. I am one of the Ninth's constituents Ms. Mitchell speaks of that doesn't support the lottery. Only, I just don't buy a ticket. But you go ahead, and thank you for the revenue.

This sort of inflammatory rhetoric should be insulting to thinking people of all races. If Congressman Ford wishes to be a Senator he must court the white vote, why then, should African-American politicians encourage Black people to only vote for a Black candidate? It has been a long time since the mid-seventies and Harold Ford, Sr.'s infamous "white devils" quote. I believed the election and re-election of Willie Herenton and A C Wharton showed progress on behalf of Memphis' electorate that promised to reach beyond the politics of race. It may have been more accurate to say that moderate white voters made progress by voting for African-American candidates based on their abilities. But judging from the level of vitriol coming from the Black community toward Sen. Cohen, there are still some old-time Memphis politicians, and some new ones, too, that still just don't get it.


Alan said...

Welcome to the real world. Do a little research on former Justice Pickering and how the Democratic Machine misrepresented his record. This goes on by both sides and members of both parties are scared to go against the flow. If you stand up for the truth against your party, right or wrong, you become a target. Check out Senator Lieberman’s situation. A white man can’t represent Black, and a Black Man can’t be a conservative. I was a Gore supporter before 2000, but when he purposely misrepresented a move by Sen. Lott for political gain, I could no longer have faith in him. I was involved personally in the law and had worked with Gore and his office as both a Senator and VP. His campaign saw a chance for political gain by taking a note out of context and misrepresenting its effect. The effect on me was just like this affects you. You have personal knowledge of the situation, so the common tactic used by both sides sticks out to you. When will politicians of both parties be allowed to differ from the party line on issues without becoming a target of their own party? This is the Tom DeLay school of politics and is practiced by both parties.

Anonymous said...

The first think that must be remembered is that all politics is bogus. It is all about advancing the power of the political bloc in question by hook or by crook. Blacks know that their power comes from racial unity. But, of course, only whites can be called racist in the Alica and Wonderland world of political correctness. The truth is that anyone who is a member of a race is racist to one extent or another. The basis of the nation/state is not is racial (the extended family) with its concomitant common culture and history. I'm not saying that this is morally right, I am saying that this is reality. Your pleas for reasonableness and fairness are falling on deaf ears, because blacks know that the name of the game is hardball (a.k.a. conquest). It is about Africa in America. The same thing is growing in the Hispanic bloc...Mexico in America. Welcome to the Balkanized States of America. Europeans are projected to be in the minority in about 40 years. Do you think that the other power blocs are going to be concerned about the rights and welfare of the new minority? I can hear them laughing up their sleeves now. They'll more likely be saying, 'Thanks for the country, suckers'. Those who forget that the name of the game is hardball will be crushed when the wheel turns. Parenthetically, the only reason that Israel has survived is because they know these things.

Anonymous said...

if you look at the world from out in space
you cant see borders or boundries or the color of a face
we've got to love one another
like sisters and brothers
like sisters and brothers love one another.

Until it is not economically profitable to be a politician there will be greed, graft, and corruption by blacks and whites, by Christians,Jews and people all faiths.
The system is not working as it was designed. How do you elect honest people? They all look alike.

Anonymous said...

The time will never come that being a politician will not be profitable. Most honest people that enter the arena are corrupted as they become assimilated by the beast. It is a dangerous, high stakes game played by the power freaks, and we the little people get stepped on in the process. We are always relegated to voting for the lesser of two evils. That being the case, the situation becomes progressively more evil. The only thing that can possibly hope for is to slow down the rate of the descent. This is why history is continuously punctuated with cataclysm. It's not a question of if, but when. The average Joes and Janes of every country thoughout the world only want to have a life and are busy procuring one when their respective governments tap them on the shoulders and say, 'We've decided that it is time for you to go and kill again...this time we have designated so and so to be the enemy'. So average Joe and Jane pick up their weapons and go off to kill whoever the government tells them to to avoid going to jail. The same is true for the poor shmoes on the other side...he's just obeying his government's power freaks...and so it goes, forever and ever. This is world history in a nutshell.

Anonymous said...

That's one way of looking at the situation. I have often wondered why people take politics so seriously. It is as bogus as a wheel barrow full of steaming dragon shit. It's a lot of sound and fury that signifies very little ultimately, because it is so very bogus...has all of the dignity of a middle school food fight. That's why I have said before that perhaps we need to revisit Dr. Leary's advice to turn on, tune in , and drop out. I think that more folks should become apolitical and create their own personal, local subcultures and environments with some like-minded souls. If done rightly a number of interesting apolitical subcultures could be developed to explore the possibilities of joyous living. Of course the larger culture would rock along with all of its political animosities, petty bickering, hatreds, etc. (liberals are as bad as the conservatives when it comes to this), but you only live once...why not create a smaller culture of joy...politics only scews your head up. I think that the hippies had something like this in mind a long time ago (at least the apolitical ones did).