The Always Vulnerable Steve Cohen

I think a white guy representing a majority-black district is always going to be vulnerable to a primary challenge. Still, I wonder if this kind of crude campaign tactic is really going to fly:

The black candidate, former Mayor Willie W. Herenton of Memphis, has argued that Tennessee needs a black voice in its currently all-white delegation. He is running a blistering campaign against Representative Steve Cohen, a fellow Democrat with a precarious hold on the majority black district.

“To know Steve Cohen is to know that he really does not think very much of African-Americans,” Mr. Herenton said in a recent radio interview on KWAM. “He’s played the black community well.”

It strikes me that effective political appeals to racial solidarity, whether coming from white candidates or coming from black candidates, normally find more success by keeping this sort of thing as subtext rather than text. Foregrounding the race issue so explicitly tends, I think, to make it seem as if you don’t have a real rationale for your campaign. And given that Cohen is extremely left-wing and acutely aware of the local demographics, it seems very unlikely that you’ll find a concrete example of him failing to zealously represent black interests in congress.