>Black candidate injects race into campaign

>This is a campaign that will soon catch the eye of various media outlets, particularly those conservative leaning folks who are desperate to find racism in the black community.


This video and subsequent CNN story is intriguing, to say the least. Former Memphis Mayor Dr. Willie Herenton is challenging one-term Congressman Steve Cohen for the ninth U.S. Congressional District, a heavily Democratic, majority black district. Herenton, who is black, is urging voters to consider his skin color and vote out his opponent Cohen, a white Jewish politician.

Herenton’s main campaign slogan on yard signs, flyers and T-shirts is phrase “Just One,” a reference to his belief that there should be at least one African- American representing Tennessee in Congress. “I believe that it is very clear to the majority of the citizens of this community that we lack representation. And all we are seeking is just one, well-qualified, African-American to serve in an 11-member Tennessee delegation that is currently all white,” Herenton said.

The Aug. 5 primary has drawn attention at the national level. Both the Congressional Black Caucus and President Barack Obama have endorsed Cohen. Herenton, who is obviously burned by the endorsements, said he was “disappointed” at Obama’s decision.

“I’m disappointed that the president intervened. This is a local race, a local race that the citizens of this community should determine the individual that they want to represent them without the interference from the White House and the president,” he said.

Herenton also accused Cohen of “trying to act black” by singing and dancing with supporters.

“It’s patronizing, it’s pandering, it’s almost playing on the emotions of the people. And I, like many in my city am resentful of that type of behavior.” Herenton said.

Cohen did say he was bothered by the use of race in the primary and noted he believes voters should look at his record and his votes in Congress as the basis for making their choices.

“You know it’s something he does, and I think it’s grasping, because I’m not trying to be black. I understand the black community better than most Caucasians do because I have spent so much time working on issues,” Cohen said. “I represent everybody, and I work hard for people to get them opportunities. And I just think that race should not be an issue in 2010.”

You can read the entire story here. I think it’s interesting how Herenton interacts with voters on the campaign trail. In the video, he addresses one of the women as “baby” while asking if he had her support. Wouldn’t one classify his demeanor and personality in addressing potential constituents as condescending? He looks more like the dirty ol’ man trying to hit on every woman at a family reunion than a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.

I find it peculiar that Herenton said Cohen is harping on the emotions of voters by singing and dancing along with voters. But, isn’t his “Just One” message designed to get black folks riled up about not having a black face to represent them in Congress?

Let that marinate for a bit…

Herenton seems to be stuck in the mid-to-late 20th century black politican mode where race baiting, whether covert or overt, was the norm. Those politicians rallied around an Us vs. Them mentality with their constituents and pushed the issue of we “need more people like us” in Congress to handle “our issues.” These politicians and activists, such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, are a dying breed because they can not to adapt to a changing African-American landscape. The old Black Politicial Guard was able to just deliver the Sunday sermon and visit the beauty and barber shops and they had enough votes to win a district. Herenton, who at best was seen a bit patronizing to his potential constituents by informing them they needed “just one” black face in the Tennessee delegation, embodies the old Black Political Guard to its core–older, educated black  man or woman elected usually by lower-to-middle class voters on a theme of black unity only to succumb to political corruption (think Charlie Rangel, folks). The old Black Political Guard, while they’ve had some accomplishments, no longer are relevant in the black community.

The former mayor seems to believe that his constituents only care about race and they only see things to a black lens. Sure, there may be a few of those voters who will vote for Herenton solely because he’s black (there’s always a few stubborn folks who refuse to see things any other way). But, I wouldn’t be surprised if Herenton comes to find out on primary night that the majority of his constituents, just like their white counterparts, vote with their pocketbooks and on the issues and not with the color of a politician’s skin in mind.

Barack Obama, a fellow black man, can testify on that point.