Leadership wanted

Steven Cohen, a white Congressman from a largely black district in Memphis, is facing another race-baiting campaign. Candidate Barack Obama spoke out against similar tactics the last time. I’d like to see President Obama do a fund-raiser for Cohen.

Here’s hoping that Barack Obama will do a fundraiser – soon - for Rep. Steven Cohen of Memphis.

Cohen has a solid voting record, and his foul-mouthed and possibly crooked opponent is running a race-baiting campaign against him.

“This seat was set aside for people who look like me,” said Mr. Herenton’s campaign manager, Sidney Chism, a black county commissioner. “It wasn’t set aside for a Jew or a Christian. It was set aside so that blacks could have representation.”

In 2008, Obama denounced a race-baiting ad from Cohen’s challenger.   But some lessons need to be taught over and over and over.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

6 thoughts on “Leadership wanted”

  1. Last time Nicki Tinker, who had the strong personal backing of Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, lost to Cohen 79-19, despite comments about Cohen's Judaism and emphasizing her blackness. Somehow I do not think Steve (whom I know slightly) is going to be in any jeopardy this time. And I fully expect that Commercial-Appeal will again strongly endorse him and criticize his opponent for remarks such as that you quoted.

  2. oops, sorry – those 3 links were supposed to be to Jackson Baker's 3-part profile of Herenton that ran in the Memphis Flyer last year. Herenton may be crazy, but he's no fool.

  3. Part of the problem is that Herenton is, very likely, correct as a literal matter: a bunch of majority-minority districts have been set up under the Voting Rights Act, and it was pretty much the expectation of all parties involved that the drawing of these districts would result in the election of congresscritters who were themselves minorities. (I don't know for certain whether Cohen's district is one of those or not.) I'm with the many people who think this is a terrible idea, since it bleeds minorities from surrounding districts and tends to leave us with two liberal blacks and four reactionaries where we might instead have four of six moderate Dems. But you can't be entirely critical of Herenton for articulating the more-or-less explicit rationale for redistricting under the VRA.

  4. No, Herenton is not correct as a literal matter. The point of the VRA wasn't minority *representatives* in the House, it was to make sure minority voters had *representation* in the house. In TN-9, they do, and they will after Nov. 2010 regardless of whether they elect Cohen or Herenton.

  5. Thomas,

    Right, and very many of the supporters of VRA renewal have made it clear that you can measure the VRA's success in part by the number of minorities elected to Congress. Here's the AFL-CIO: "Unless Congress acts soon, three key sections of the Voting Rights Act will expire in August 2007. The act, which outlawed such atrocities as the literacy test and poll tax to prevent people of color from voting, has given minorities political power and propelled thousands of people of color into elective office."

    Sure, the written, official purpose of the majority-minority districts was just to ensure that minorities had representation, but of course as long as they could vote, they technically did have representation – just as James Eastland and John Stennis, formally (but not functionally), represented Mississippi's blacks in the Senate. The VRA was to ensure that communities of color were specifically represented by someone chosen primarily by those communities – and it was understood, and it has been widely expressed, that this would be reflected by the appearance of many more minorities in Congress.

Comments are closed.