Thursday’s Democratic primary in the hotly contested Tennessee Ninth District saw anti-Semitism rear its ugly — and ineffective — head, resulting in a decisive victory for the Jewish candidate targeted by the smear tactics.

Rep. Nikki Tinker’s campaign was faltering close to the final days of the race, and, wanting to portray opponent Rep. Steve Cohen as a “religious outsider” in the community, ran a series of anti-Semitic advertisements in local media hoping to bolster her support in the majority-Black district, including one TV ad (not to detract from this one):

While Cohen visits “our churches, clapping his hands and tapping his feet,” the ad said, “he’s the only senator who thought our kids shouldn’t be allowed to pray in school” – a reference to a 1997 vote Cohen made as a state senator.

One particularly inflammatory print ad called Cohen the “opponent of Christ and Christianity” who “hates” its founder, and called on constituents to appoint “one Black Christian” to represent them in the House of Representatives.

Her anti-Semitic Jew-baiting would be to no avail — Ms. Tinker was defeated by a margin of 79-to-19 in the election.

Upon examining the merits of both candidates, Ms. Tinker’s decision becomes readily understandable.

Mr. Cohen has 24 years in the State Senate under his belt, his family has lived in the Memphis area for four generations, and fought for “twenty years” for the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship program, which, since 2004, has provided over $1 billion for Tennessee students to continue their educations. Ms. Tinker, on the other hand, is currently VP of Labor Relations for Northwest Airlink/Pinnacle Airlines, and a former campaign manager for Congressman Harold Ford, Jr.

Anti-Semitism is still alive and well in this country. It is particularly painful when I see such things coming from the black community — especially in the South — because things this divisive only, to me, serve to reflect an ignorance of history (as my grandmother told me, many Jews who could get into the “white entrances” of stores did so to benefit those of us who couldn’t) and are so counter-productive for the black community that one could ask a Nikki Tinker whose side she was on at the end of the day. For a Black person to connect a Jew to the KKK in campaign rhetoric detracts from the real KKK, the KKK who would like to see both communities expunged from America. One serves no one by abetting, through unnecessary division, the real racists who affect minority communities far more than their Jewish counterparts. (And while the New York Times is technically right, that this was a racially charged campaign, the references to Christ and Christianity let me know — Jews of all colors are unfit to represent this district in the mind of this campaign. A blanket equating of “anti-Semitism” with “racism” in this context equates “Jewish” with “white”, something I would hope the media would at least attempt to stop doing.)

Perhaps Ms. Tinker has learned a bit about unity and working together from this campaign. Maybe she should work together on campaign ads with now-infamous Alex Castellanos, and go back to being a campaign aide — on John McCain’s campaign. The Democratic party has no place for such divisive tactics.

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About the author


A modern charedi Jew-by-choice since 2000, and igniting headphones with Torah hiphop since 2001.

Originally from Maryland and now holding it down in the shtetlach of New York, won the Jewish Music Awards for "Best Hiphop" in 2006. Vocally anti-prejudice and pro-unity.

Love me, hate me, or debate me, know you can't ignore me, though.

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