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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 21, 2006 / 28 Elul, 5766

In Tennessee, testing the limits of liberalism

By Jonathan Martin



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Will Steve Cohen become the Congressional Black Caucus' token Jew?

YO VEY!


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | On March 3, Tennessee State Senator Steve Cohen made a bold campaign pledge. If elected to Congress this fall, the balding and bespectacled Jewish Democrat told a Washington reporter, he would seek to become "the first white member" of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).


Cohen is vying for the seat vacated by fellow Democrat Representative Harold Ford Jr., who is running for Senate. Should he be elected, Ford will be the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction. Should Cohen be elected, he will be the first Jew ever sent to the House from a majority black district (not to mention the first Jew ever to apply to the CBC). But the weighty possibility of making history doesn't seem to faze Cohen, the 24-year veteran of a state Senate seat in a racially mixed district who likens his voting record to that of "a black woman." A Great Society Democrat in a region that favors New Democrats, he describes himself as "definitely a liberal" in a state that definitely isn't. Cohen, 57, calls Jackson Browne and Julian Bond friends, admires Barack Obama, Russ Feingold, and George McGovern, and says he loves Memphis's famed barbecue and ribs "more than anybody."


But Cohen's black friends and conspicuous pork consumption still didn't impress some of his 14 primary opponents. One black candidate publicly pointed out that Cohen's election would mean that "for the first time in thirty years," the city "could be without African American representation." Another paid for a push poll in which recipients were reportedly asked, "Are you more likely to vote for a born-again Christian or a Jew?" A third, just three days before the primary, went even further. Pouncing on Cohen's pledge to join the CBC, longtime Shelby County Commissioner Julian Bolton sneered, "The only reason he wants to join is that he wants to get money for Israel."


Despite such attacks, Cohen was able to capture 31 percent of the vote in the August 3 primary. Most importantly, his respectable showing in heavily minority precincts enabled him to claim victory. But, even in a safe Democratic district, Cohen's path to Washington still isn't clear. few weeks after Cohen won the primary, I spoke with him from his home in Memphis. As much aging hipster as ambitious pol, Cohen retrieved the liner notes from a David Crosby LP from 1971 to emphasize his deeper aspirations. He'd like to give those "who really run this land" a "piece of my mind about peace for mankind." But, beyond sharing these Age of Aquarius dreams, Cohen wasn't focused on politics; he had more immediate issues to contend with. He'd had three kidney stones removed in ten days and had just moved his reluctant 91-year-old mother into a retirement home. "She's sitting shiva, saying, 'I never thought this day would come,'" the native Memphian said in an accent not typically associated with references to Judaic bereavement tradition.


But Stephen Ira Cohen is anything but typical. The grandson of a Lithuanian immigrant-turned-newsstand owner and son of a doctor, Cohen has been consumed by politics since John F. Kennedy made a campaign stop in Memphis in 1960. Then eleven years old, he got a picture of his political hero sitting atop a convertible that still hangs in his office. After law school at Memphis State and stints on the Shelby County Commission (the governing body for Memphis's surrounding county) and as a judge, Cohen was elected to the state Senate in 1982. He is known mostly for two things: his midwifery of Tennessee's popular lottery for education and a garrulous, hard-charging personality. "He can be kind of a pain in the butt," says The Tennessean political columnist Larry Daughtrey, a 40-year observer of the state's political scene. "He's very outspoken, very persistent, and a lot more cerebral than most of his colleagues."


Cohen is also "probably the most liberal white member in the legislature," Daughtrey observes, "perhaps even more so than most of the black members." Well to the left on a litany of social issues (for civil unions, abortion rights, separation of church and state, and giving ex-felons the right to vote), Cohen has pushed to create an income tax in a state that has for years fiercely resisted one.


In 1996, when Representative Harold Ford Sr. stepped down from his House seat to become a lobbyist, Cohen decided to expand his political career beyond the confines of local politics. But there was someone already in his way — 26-year-old Harold Ford Jr. "I'd spent fourteen years in the Senate, had the experience, and didn't like the idea of [the seat] being handed down like an heirloom," Cohen recalled. In addition to his father's political clout, Ford had the advantage of being a black running against a Jew in a 60 percent black district. Jews, including the two college students killed along with a local black man in Philadelphia, Mississippi, during the "freedom summer" of 1964, were some of the most fervent advocates for civil rights. But, since then, there have been uneasy relations between the two communities, exacerbated by Jesse Jackson ("Hymietown"), Al Sharpton ("Interlopers"), and Louis Farrakhan (where to begin?). The cultural hurdles for Cohen were considerable (he even aired a campaign ad of the lone Chinese protester blocking the tank in Tiananmen Square to symbolize what he was up against).


Despite the long odds, Cohen gave it everything he had until the polls closed. Worn out by the time he got to his election night party, Cohen did not take his 25-percentage-point trouncing by the untested scion well. Irked by Ford's considerable margins in black precincts, his mouth got the better of him. "It is impossible for a person who is not African American to get a large vote in the African American community ... against a substantial candidate," Cohen lashed out. "The fact is, I am white, and it doesn't seem to matter what you do."


Reflecting on his comments ten years later, Cohen admitted they were "impolitic." But he also doesn't deny that there is truth to what he said. "Race is still an important factor in voting."


Cohen may have thought that he had finally transcended the race barrier with his primary win. But, in a Groundhog Day scenario, another candidate has recently come forward who not only is black but who also has instant name recognition. Though his sparse campaign website lists him as a prep-school and college dropout who works for his father's lobbying operation, Jake Ford is making an Independent bid for his brother's seat. As he explains on his homepage, he's a "lifelong Democrat" who considered entering the primary but declined after deeming it impossible that "a true issue-oriented race could be conducted."

But can a 33-year-old candidate who ticks off the years he spent at St. Albans only to list "G.E.D. Diploma 1992" in his online bio — and who, as late as Labor Day, refused to discuss his campaign with the local press — really mount a credible challenge to Cohen? With a last name that still carries weight with many black voters, says Marcus Pohlmann, a political science professor at Memphis's Rhodes College, even this lesser Ford could potentially do so. "If bitterness does spill over from the primary, it could boost Jake."

Cohen said the question is simple: "Will people vote for family lineage or for experiences and results?" If the 1996 race is any guide, it will be the former. And, compounding the problem for Cohen, neither Ford Senior nor Junior has made his intentions known. Cohen said he "suspect[s] a major effort by" the elder Ford on behalf of Jake is in the offing, including a "full tilt" push in the black churches down the final stretch of the campaign similar to 1996. As for the younger Ford, Cohen ran into him recently and was given a mysterious answer. "He said he'd support me but couldn't endorse me," Cohen said, adding that Ford told him that he "doesn't get involved in local races."

Carol Andrews, a spokesperson for Ford's campaign, offers much the same: "Harold Ford is running for the Senate and is focused totally on his campaign." Such coyness is a mistake, said Cohen. "I've got a constituency throughout the state that he needs," he claims, referring to the following he has developed thanks to his support for the education lottery and other causes held dear by local white liberals. Cohen added that, by backing his bid, the young representative would also show — referring to Ford's oft-cited slogan — "that he is indeed a 'new generation of leadership'" that is above race.

It would also be good strategy, says Daughtrey, the Tennessean columnist. Recently, several members of the Ford family who have also dabbled in politics have become ensnared in corruption and bribery charges. Harold Ford Jr., according to Daughtrey, would "just as soon give Jake a ticket to Shanghai" to avoid any more of the persistent questions about his family's travails that have emerged during the campaign.

Just a few weeks ago, the black mayors of both Shelby County and Memphis publicly endorsed Cohen and took direct shots at Jake Ford. But it is still unknown how many black Memphians will want to end the Ford family's 32-year hold on the seat. In the meantime, Cohen noted that Harold Ford Jr. tells those who would oppose him as senator because of his race, "G-d bless." After his own campaign is over, Cohen said, he, too, "will also have a lot of people to G-d bless." And then, he put it in terms befitting an aspiring CBC member: "To say I shouldn't run is to say that Dr. King's dream is a failure. If they can't accept me, then they can't accept anybody."

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Jonathan Martin is a staff writer at National Journal's The Hotline. He wrote this piece for The New Republic.




© 2006, The New Republic