On Vanishing White Southern Democrats

Posted by John Branston on Thu, Aug 9, 2012 at 2:31 PM

Steve Cohen
  • Steve Cohen
Steve Cohen's landslide victory over Tomeka Hart in last week's congressional Democratic primary is all the more remarkable in light of this headline on the front page of Thursday's Wall Street Journal: "Southern White Democrats Face End of Era in Congress."

Okay, so Tennessee is maybe a border state and not part of the "Deep South" that includes Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina. Cohen, who faces Republican Dr. George Flinn in November, is a politically popular white congressman in a majority-black district. And he's a liberal rather than a conservative "blue dog" Democrat, to boot.

The Journal story by reporter Naftali Bendavid says "In a stark realignment, voters in the Deep South have divided into an increasingly black Democratic Party and a mostly white Republican Party." Like Tennessee, each of those states also has a Republican governor.

Quoting from the story: "Leaders of the two parties interpret the phenomenon differently. Republicans say white voters are increasingly voting Republican, turned off by what they say is the Democratic Party's growing liberalism. Democrats blame Republican leaders for redistricting actions that Democrats say are concentrating black voters in a smaller number of districts."

White Democrats are a vanishing breed in Memphis and Shelby County. If he wins in November, Senator Jim Kyle will be the only white Democrat in the Shelby County delegation in the state legislature that included such names as Cohen, Dan Byrd, Pam Gaia, Mike Kernell, Elbert Gill, David Shirley (who switched parties), Beverly Marrero, Carol Chumney, and Chris Turner in the mid-1980s and 1990s.

According to the most recent U.S. Census data, Tennessee's population is 80 percent white, Shelby County's population is 44 percent white, and the population of Memphis is 29 percent white.

Comments (30)

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Nothing infuriates a southern white Republican like a southern white Democrat, and while there may not be as many as before, we're not dead yet. I intend to keep infuriating the GOP for a long time to come.

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Posted by LeftWingCracker on 08/09/2012 at 4:08 PM

I thought Steve Cohen was Jewish? Isn't there a difference between being White and Jewish?

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Posted by still living in Berclair on 08/09/2012 at 4:16 PM

That depends on who you ask, SLiB. According to white supremacists, the answer is "yes." Ask Sidney Chism or Willie Herenton and you might get a different answer.

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Posted by autoegocrat on 08/09/2012 at 6:36 PM

What makes you think you are infuriating southern white Republicans? I think a more likely reaction would be for the Republican to pat you on your head and say something like "bless your little heart". At least for now, and likely for the foreseeable future, the Republicans are just about in total control in the South. I suspect you have overestimated you power to infuriate, but if it makes you feel better...

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Posted by Drift Boat on 08/09/2012 at 6:59 PM

SLiB: You are correct. The term "white," as it's commonly used, refers to a race (a/k/a caucasian); the term "Jewish," contrary to popular belief, doesn't. Interestingly, though, Jews share more, genetically and anthropologically, with Africans than they do with Europeans.

Auto: the funny thing about Herenton, in particular, is that he'd be nowhere, politically, without the funding and support he's received from prominent, affluent Jews, as well as from prominent, affluent whites. It's a classic case of biting the hand that feeds you.

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Posted by M_Awesomeberg on 08/09/2012 at 7:25 PM

I'm sorry. They are vanishing because they can see the Democrat Party no longer represents them. The democrats are now The New Socialist Party. Anyone can see that.

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Posted by Rdoug52 on 08/09/2012 at 8:07 PM

From this article:
"Democrats blame Republican leaders for redistricting actions that Democrats say are concentrating black voters in a smaller number of districts."
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the Republicans have to win control of the legislature BEFORE they could engage in these "redistricting actions"?

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Posted by Drift Boat on 08/09/2012 at 8:58 PM

What is the most important thing that the WSJ story on this subject ignored completely is that Rep. Cohen is truly a white blackbird, a unique ornithological creature. Does the national press understand that TN-9's Democratic primary, in which 75% of the voters are black, just returned a white incumbent (and yes, even a Jewish one!) by a margin of 9-to-1 over a reasonably credible (MSC Board member) black opponent. Why is that "not news" in a 24/7 news cycle where Harold Ford Jr. shows up at 6 am on CNBC, claiming to speak for the Democratic Party. I swear i did not dream this. Cohen is the greatest trans-racial politican in modern America; his only real North American equivalent over the past half-century was Jamaican Prime Minister Nelson Manley in the Seventies, who "bolted" to the top of Jamaican politics despite his Caucasian-ness. (Sorry, couldn't help myself on this day!)

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Posted by Tennessee Waltzer on 08/10/2012 at 1:12 AM

I used to be a lifelong Democrat, but he Democratic party is just a bunch of socialist liberals who no longer represent what I believe the way Ronald Reagan did.

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Posted by Jeff on 08/10/2012 at 7:23 AM

The southern white republicans are yesterdays boll weivel democrats. They became dems because of the popularity of Abe Lincoln with blacks and northernerss, he was a republican. So, if a white tried to get elected in the south, back then, he could not be labeled a republican and expect to win.

When Lyndon Johnson passed the civil rights act, in 1964, and other legislation, including the voting rights act, the white democrats began leaving the party to become republicans. So, nothing has really changed, except the label.

Hell, no wonder the schools, the old MCS and the SCS, are in such bad shape. I don't understand why they don't teach this in history, civics, etc.

Driftboat, I hate to ruin your day, but, the republican party is in its last death throes. The fast changing demographics is overtaking them. Even in Mississippi, blacks constitutes 37% of the population, same as in N.C. How long, at this rate do you think it will be before the state is no longer republican?

Let this be a warning to all of you hardcore, rightwing republicans, your children unless they moderate their veiws through you, will be in big political trouble by the time they are grown.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 08/10/2012 at 8:37 AM


You make a very broad statement.

What I would respectively ask of you, is to list the way democrats have become liberal socialist. Also, list why the republican party is really difference, not just in rhetoric, but any actual practice.

I am tired of people calling someone socialist, most don't know what it means. Name the socialist policies that democrats have and how republicans differ.

Please use what facts you have available. If you can't do this, it would appear that insteas of with your mouth, you are talking out of your rear> LOL

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 08/10/2012 at 8:48 AM

Jeff: don't bother; there's no point. Anyone who didn't understand your original post, doesn't deserve to have it explained. They probably wouldn't understand, or pay much attention to, the explanation either.

Oh, and the word is RESPECTFULLY. "Respectively" has no meaning in the context it was used. Yeah, yeah, I know: ignorant, and proud of it. Who needs education when they have "common sense?" That, of course, would be assuming a fact not in evidence. Idiot.

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Posted by M_Awesomeberg on 08/10/2012 at 9:37 AM

OTP, are you trying to tell me Ronald Reagan wasn't our best Democratic president? I refuse to believe that.

You want examples? Obromaneycare. I rest my case.

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Posted by Jeff on 08/10/2012 at 10:04 AM

Jeff, the Affordadable Care Act was first put to the fore back in 1993 by the Heritage Foundation, a republican foundation. It was first brought up and supported by republicans. The only reason they turned against it is because Barack Obama supported. Anything that he supports, regardless of how much they were for it before, they now abhor it.

Social Security, Medicare, etc are all socialist policies and they were and are supported by both parties and the overwhelming majorities of the American People. Got anything else?

M_A_, you are laughable. You make the legal proffession look silly. What you say as putdowns or whatever you wish to call it has the importantence of finding a flea on a camel's ass. As far as grammar, who cares! I sure in the heck don't>

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 08/10/2012 at 10:42 AM

OTP, Ha! You so got me there. I concede.

And here I thought the Heritage Foundation was a front for a commie organization put together one night by Leonid Brezhnev and Jane Fonda in 1973 after all-night Dark Side of the Moon stereo jam-fest with Ann Dunham and Frank Marshall Davis. They only appear to be conservative in order to infect socialist ideas into the mainline mainstream Republican conscienceness.

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Posted by Jeff on 08/10/2012 at 12:32 PM

JFK was the last Democrat I voted for. LBJ sealed it with his great society that destroyed the black family. Those who question the DEM's socialistic bent have not studied communism and socialism. Anyone who thinks the government can do a better job than the private sector is a socialist. Obama? I rest my case.

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Posted by countrycousin on 08/10/2012 at 12:45 PM

Jeff: Alan Pakula was there, too. The gang was in a self-congratulatory mood, watching a private screening of Klute for the umpteenth time.

CC: I suggest you pick up Robert Caro's new L.B.J. book. Fascinating stuff.

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Posted by Phlo on 08/10/2012 at 1:39 PM

Cousin, how can we take you seriously when you can't even spell 'fambly' right?

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Posted by Jeff on 08/10/2012 at 2:38 PM

And here I thought everything I said was importanent. Momentuous, and consequentative as well.

And yeah, we don't need no stinkin' grammar. Pompositousness and self-importanence sweep away such inconsequentative necessitivities.

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Posted by M_Awesomeberg on 08/10/2012 at 2:45 PM


I would like to see a potential business owner try to start one up without the government infrastructure and the government funded education that his workers would need and the federal reserve system that control interest rates so that he can get the necessary loans to finance his plan?

I wonder if Fred Smith would have started Fed Ex if the airport, air traffic controllers, ingress and egress roads, etc were not already there?

Please answer those questions for me?

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 08/10/2012 at 3:06 PM


Would you like to explain to our unlearned friend that the Federal Reserve is not part of the government? I frankly don't have the time nor energy to educate him any further.

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Posted by ArlingtonPop on 08/10/2012 at 3:16 PM

It's amusing to hear people say that the present day Republican Party is remotely related to the party of Lincoln. LBJ had it right when upon signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 he knew that the South would be taken by the Republican Party for at least a generation.

Today's Southern Republican is yesterdays Dixiecrat. The party now worships at the alter of the "aggrieved, persecuted, reverse-discriminated Euro-American male", who feels that African-Americans, Gays, Uppity Women, and everyone else unlike them need to be taken back into their place. Just my perceptions.

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Posted by jrgolden on 08/10/2012 at 5:07 PM


That is why this public school system, city and county is pitiful. It is bigotry as to why they don't teach the real history and civics here.


Hey, white people, get you a real history/civics book and learn something. Then, you will know just what you are supporting, well, at least I hope that you don't already know.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 08/10/2012 at 6:00 PM

AP: if you look up the definition of futility, you'll find a picture of someone (definitely not me) trying to explain ANYTHING to "our learned friend." He suffers from obliviosity and obstinaceousness.

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Posted by M_Awesomeberg on 08/10/2012 at 6:39 PM

Steve works hard for the community and is a good man.

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Posted by bob on 08/10/2012 at 6:59 PM
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