When is a Congressman -who previously spent 24 years in the state Senate earning a reputation as a civil rights advocate and champion of minority causes, and who has won high marks in for his work in Congress from minority and liberal groups - an ineffective Congressman for a majority minority district?
When he's a white Jew:
Voters in the August 2010 Democratic primary will face a sensitive question that has dogged Cohen since his first House election in 2006: Should Tennessee's only majority black district have a black representative in Washington?
Well, apparently his district has seen fit to elect him twice regardless of skin color, and despite the gerrymandering involved. And it seems, based on his accolades mentioned above, he has been doing exactly the job his constituents would wish for.
But he's got the wrong skin color, folks. So in 2010, he will be challenged by Willie Herenton, the mayor of Memphis and a man of color. Why mention his race? It appears as if that's his primary reason for challenging Cohen:
The congressional election should focus on "pressing and important issues," Herenton wrote. "However, it remains a fact that the 9th Congressional District provides the only real opportunity to elect a qualified African-American to the all-white 11-member delegation representing Tennessee in Washington."
...at the cost of eliminating the only Jew, of course.
Based on Herenton's rationale for his election, I should never vote for a black representative in my Congressional district - not matter how closely our policies align - because as a white-majority district, I have a responsibilty to vote for a white man, to counter all the gerrymandered districts in New Jersey set up to elect balck representatives. Gotta vote my color to balance it all out and get fair representation for the white man, no?
But that rationale would make me a racist. Herenton's rationale makes him a "formidable foe" to Steve Cohen.
Fair? Welcome to the real-world results of liberal racial politics. Will be interesting to see which way the 9th Congressional District in Memphis swings. A Cohen re-election would say a lot about the color-blind status of politics (Barack Obama, anyone?), and of the 9th DC.
A Herenton victory, unfortunately, may be construed as nothing more than a continuation of a race war that some people wish to see go on forever...and that's Herenton's fault, for focusing not on the "important and pressing issues", but on race.