More Identity Politics In Tennessee's 9th.

In yet another episode involving Barack Obama's (a) deep-seated hatred for white people (b) liberal racism, the president has declared his support for Rep. Steve Cohen, the congressman from Tennessee's predominantly black 9th Congressional District who trounced former Harold Ford aide Nikki Tinker's race-baiting campaign two years ago.

The Washington Post doesn't mention that in its write-up of Obama's endorsement and the current contest, between Cohen and former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, who is making Cohen's race an issue:

His opponent in next month's Democratic primary, former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton, even refers to the lack of racial diversity in Tennessee's congressional delegation on his campaign Web site. A page titled "This Picture Looks Better" includes a photo of Herenton alongside the state's all-white delegation.

I expect a number of people on the right to to point to this contest as another example of the mass appeal of "reverse racism," among black folks, undeterred by how things went last time. But the only thing unique about identity politics in the 9th is that they're less coded than everywhere else.

I won't be surprised if Herenton does much better than Tinker, having previously been elected mayor in the same city that the 9th District is part of. Memphis residents may decide that they want a black representative, or they may decide Herenton would do a better job, but ultimately, I think the race will hinge on whether or not they think Herenton more accurately represents their interests more than Cohen does. For a number of reasons beyond Cohen's endorsements from Obama and a number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, I think they'll recognize this identity-politics hustle for what it is. From a Herenton campaign event in June (my emphasis):

Harold Ford Jr. did not represent my views and he was black. You support [Republican Sen.] Lamar Alexander,” said Lexie Carter, a member of the local Democratic executive committee, at one point. “He fights everything that the president comes out with. … I can’t kind of fit that in my head.”

“I wish you would look at me broader than that,” Herenton responded. “I’m that type of Democrat. I can cross party lines. But I hope you would support me because of having friends that are Republican to help us improve America. … Let me get back on this picture.”

Yeah, get back to the picture. If that's really all Herenton's got, he's gonna lose.

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