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Racism in Tennessee?

I like Harold Ford. He's one of my favorite Democrats in Washington, and I'd very likely vote for him if I lived in Tennessee. Moreover, I think this attack ad targeting Ford is silly, embarrassing, and downright misleading in parts. But is it racist?

Josh Marshall thinks so, and so do Chris Matthews and Oliver Willis, in their typically shrill, nonsensical fashion. Here's how Willis viewed the ad:

The Republican party is running in Tennessee on a platform of the big black buck coming for the white women.

Right. Phrased with all the characteristic grace and aplomb we've come to expect from Mr. Willis. It's still bullshit, of course.

Look, I'm going to be a bit politically incorrect for a moment, so please bear with me here. This is Harold Ford:

He doesn't exactly evoke "Mandingo," now, does he? In fact, until I started reading about the current campaign, I didn't even know Ford was black. He's paler than my Scotch-Irish self.

Most of the allegations of racism seem to center on the (white) Playmate in the video who says she met Ford during a party at the Playboy mansion. For my part, it doesn't bother me at all if Ford wants to party with Hef and the gals, but in conservative Tennessee, this kind of behavior among elected officials can still raise some eyebrows. This effect is magnified by the fact that Ford has made a big issue of his Christian faith and his "love for Jesus" during this campaign. It's very hard to imagine Democrats not slamming Ford for the same reason were the party roles reversed. The whole Playboy thing is a non-issue, as far as I'm concerned, but it's certainly not racism. The ad's Playboy angle would make just as much sense (or nonsense) if Ford were white.

Here's a video clip that purports to illustrate the "hidden" racist message in the ad. Again, it focuses largely on the "Mandingo" theme, but the video's author is completely inconsistent. We're asked to believe the inclusion of the first woman is racist because the woman is black. Then we're told the inclusion of the last woman is racist because the woman is white. Not terribly convincing, is it? Then, for good measure, the video's author is offended because the hunter in the middle of the ad seems to be wearing "blackface." That's proof certain that this preposterous video was put together by someone outside of Tennessee, because he/she obviously doesn't know a damn thing about hunting.

This is just stupid, people. Racism still exists, all around us, and that's a problem, and one we shouldn't trivialize by looking for racism where it simply doesn't exist. I like Ford, and I hope he wins. But dealing the race card in this instance is not only unseemly, but very likely counterproductive as well.


Absolutely correct, Barry.

Ford, who BTW bears a passing resmblance to Derek Jeter, hasn't said anything about this, BTW.

This, plus the now-termed Memphis Meltdown when Ford clumsily intruded on a Corker press conference, are signs of a desperate campaign, IMO.

BTW, Ford's father twice called a Corker staffer 'cracker', which I believe is still taboo in the South.

It was in all the papers - uh, check that, it wasn't was it?

Wonder why?

The more I read/hear about the commercial, the sillier it seems. And seriously, my brother is darker than Ford. The man has a serious melanin deficiency.

I actually have read about the "fight" in the parking lot (I keep imagining the knife fight in West Side Story except with index cards).

The more I read/hear about the commercial, the sillier it seems.

No it is not silly. It is deliberate use of racist tactics by RNC, as I explain here . In that site, in the comments section, you can also see an exchange of arguments between myself and Barry on the issue :)

I am darker than Ford. Doesn't change the content of the ad and the message it's attempting to send. I don't understand why people want to give this sort of thing a pass.

From bongo drums in the background to a white woman panting "call me!" the message is pretty damn clear. Dis big black buck be after yoos whites wimmens!

My guess is that it will work and Ford will lose. Most of America, especially Tennessee, is racist. Ford is so pale that they just need to be reminded a little.

Mission accomplished!

I'm really hoping you're wrong, Bailey, because that's really depressing.

Unfortunately that is most certainly a racist ad. Want further proof? The RNC decided to pull it out because they realized it was back-firing.

Have to admit: I was also surprised to find out he is black.

BTW, I think he looks much more like A-Rod than Jeter.

RNC pulled it because media was jumping on the "racist" bandwagon and giving Ford tons of attention -- at no cost to the Ford campaign.

OK, to his credit Ford hasn't joined in on any of these phoney "racism" charges, but the damage (to HIM) is done now anyway.

I loved his ambush of Corker a few days ago and thought that was to his advantage...but this "racial victimology" certainly is not.

The Dems NEED NJ, Tennessee & Misouri to take the Senate - all three are real close.

NJ's a slimefest - just the way I like it, though I don't like Keane's dopey stance on Hastert & Rumsfeld ("resign"), but I'd probably support him anyway, if I were there. The latest Rasmussen Poll has them tied.

I just don't see Clare McCaskill pulling out the win over Talent, despite Michael J Fox's ad. Survey USA has him up 5% and Rasmussen has him up 2% and most polls almost always overcount Dem votes.

And in Tennessee, I'm betting Tennesseans will backlash on the media's crude attempts at painting them "Good'ol boy racists," by voting early and often (just kidding) for Corker. The recent LA Times/Bloomberg Poll has Corker up 5%.

I really think the MSM shitf*cked Harold Ford Jr with all this "race crap."

"I just don't see Clare McCaskill pulling out the win over Talent, despite Michael J Fox's ad. Survey USA has him up 5% and Rasmussen has him up 2% and most polls almost always overcount Dem votes.

Talent is the worst among the republican candidates in these 3 states. Watching him in the debate in meet the press it made me wonder how was he ever elected. He sounded weak, uninformed, and far below average. And he is certainly against embryonic stem cell research and the ad of Michael Fox against him was more thanappropriate. I think he will lose marginally at the end.

The dems need 2 out of these 3 races. I think that they will win NJ and MO. They will likely lose in TN, where the racist ad of the RNC probably did have an effect. I personally dont like Ford as a democratic candidate. He is essentially a right wing republican.

The dirty little secret in these racist charges is that they reflect Democrat views of most Southerners.

In their mind apparently, Jim Crow and segregation still is rampant, the Klan is still hanging 'Nigras' and mysogeny (sp?) is taboo.

Come on folks, that South died years ago. The only reason that the Dems won't accept that is they keep losing down there and cannot understand why. Hence, it must be latent racism because so many blacks are Dems.

Thanks, Mal. Right you are. As someone who lived in the New South all of my life up until about 5 years ago, I bristle at the implication that I grew up in some Faulkner novel.

Let me make this very clear to everyone: any Tennessee racists are quite well aware of Ford's racial background, regardless of how light his skin may be. It may not matter to Barry because Barry isn't a racist and doesn't think in those terms. He wouldn't know that Ford is African-American. But to a racist, well, you bet your ass the racists knew it. The point of the ad was to get out the vote, to appeal to any racists who might have been tempted to stay home on election day and say, "This n****r wants to sleep with white women, and you need to vote against him." What would be the point of that ad ("Ford tried to get me to bed with him)) if not for a racial element? Why run an ad like that otherwise? How effective would it be otherwise?

There is no mystery here. Sure, the racial aspect might slip past someone who is otherwise not terribly sensitive about such things because he or she isn't inclined to racism or other such prejudices. If you aren't always looking to see if someone is black or white or a Jew or a Christian (or the right kind of Christian), you may not notice that stuff at all and it might seem silly to you. But there is a sizeable enough portion of the population (and the RNC seems to think there is enough of them in Tennessee to warrant the expenditure) that does think in those terms. So they went after them. Maybe their internal polling data said that the racist demographic was planning to stay home on November 7.

I think it is a mistake to think that there is no longer a large enough racist element in the south to matter. I would guess that there are still enough racists there to change the course of an election that is polling with the margin of error (the last poll I saw had the two candidates at something like .6% difference). And don't make the mistake of thinking that everyone thinks the racists are all in the south. Some of us remember quite well the things that have happened in liberal Boston, Massachusetts. And also in Howard Beach in New York. We're not so stupid or naive and it doesn't really help your argument to paint Democrats or liberals as stupid. We know what's going on just as much as anyone.

By the way, I spent enough time in Alabama to say from experience that I know there are plenty of bigots left in the south, though I haven't spent any time in Tennessee. You may think Alabama is different, and you may be right, but if we're talking "south", then yes, I saw a lot of bigotry in Alabama, and it wasn't all about race. Quite a lot of it was based on religion.

> What would be the point of that ad ("Ford tried to get me to bed with him)) if not for a racial element? Why run an ad like that otherwise? How effective would it be otherwise?

I already explained why. It was the "Playboy" angle, juxtaposed against Ford's frequent "I love Jesus" campaign backdrop. As I also explained, there were women of both races in the ad who expressed attraction for Ford, thus negating any net "racist" angle.

That being said, let me clarify something. I did not mean to imply that there is no lingering racism in the South -- of course there is. But it's a very different place than it was in the 60s, and is now more in line with the rest of the nation. I've lived in the Northeast for about 7 years now, and I can't say there's an appreciable difference in the amount of racism I encounter up here compared with the Southeast. The racism tends to be of a different variety in different regions, but no less common in either, IMO.

And I still think that the racist element is inherent in the ad, but that's what makes horse races. I don't know that I could present an argument that would convince you that it was the RNC's intent, in producing that ad, to make an appeal in that direction, but I think it is there.

> I don't know that I could present an argument that would convince you that it was the RNC's intent...

If it were their intent, they did a piss-poor job of executing it. Not only is Ford an extremely ill fit for the Mandingo archetype, the chiclet at the end is hardly an example of the chaste, virtuous, Southern belle that Ford aims to despoil. Sorry DBK, but the whole narrative just doesn't work. Not only that, but whom would the RNC be targeting with such an ad? A bunch of hard-core Southern racists who would otherwise happily vote for a black guy as their senator? None of it makes any sense at all. There are too many problems with the whole "racism" theory, and I'm officially invoking Occam's Razor here. The much simpler explanation is that the GOP is continuing to mock Ford's "playboy" image, as they previously (and ludicrously) did here.

Moreover, I think the overreaction to this ad is going to backfire. People are sick, especially in the South, of liberals' predisposition to find imaginary racists under every Southern bedpost. And I doubt Tennessee voters appreciate the insinuation that the mere thought of a black guy coupling with a white woman would send them into a fit of uncontrollable rage.

You know, it's funny that what's supposed to a secret, dog whistle message to Southern racists can only be heard by Northeasterners and liberals.

I find it very interesting that the Democrats constantly play the race card. The object of the add is paint ford as amoral and corrupt. The part with the white women is an attempt to establish a link between Ford and the porn industry. Now it doesn't matter weather you buy into any of these premises (I don't think he's worse than any other politician), the point is that the racial accusation is just plain Democrat/liberal BS. I remember the add with the pick-up truck dragging a chain behind it to link Bush to a horrible racial murder in TX durring the 04 Pres. race. This type of whiny victim-hood nonsense is just plain insulting, not to mention a blatant lie. Southerners are probably sick and tired of being called racist because they don't vote for the crybaby Dems. I guess since I'm white and conservative I'm a racist too. Someone mentioned NJ. I used to live their (moved in 04). The liberal dems have destroyed NJ and made it the slime pit it is today. Menedez is under criminal investigation for mis-appropriating Federal funds. Otherwords he stole about $300,000.00 dollars from us, the U.S. tax payers. I'm no Republican but I would sooner trust the Devil himself before the party of Ted "drown a bitch" Kenedy. The party of race baiting and "I hate America" has got a lot of nerve to call names.

Dear John the Marine:

I was going to give your remarks the benefit of the doubt until you repeated the false talking points about Menendez. You don't know what you are talking about. I am no Menendez fan, but the facts (those pesky things that Ronald Reagan considered "stupid") don't support you.

You claim New Jersey is a "slime pit". We have the highest per capita income in the country, an apparent commitment to equal rights on the part of our courts, and I, as a lifelong resident, love this state, as do many of us who live here or we wouldn't put up with the drawbacks. Our political system has its problems, but those were mainly Republicans arrested in the federal probe in Monmouth Country, so throwing this on "the liberal Dems" is flat out bullshit. Since you're so smart, please enlighten all of us as to when the "liberal Dems" turned the state into a "slime pit".

I will give you this, you almost didn't make me laugh out loud until the end there. I love how you criticize the Democrats for name calling while saying "Ted 'drown a bitch' Kennedy" and "The party of race baiting". Not to mention the "crybaby Dems" and the bit about New Jersey being a "slime pit" earlier.

Finally, let me give you a small history lesson. The south was solidly Democratic until the civil rights movement. It was in the 1960s that Democratic federal legislators deserted the party and became Republicans because Democrats supported equal rights for all people...even black people. And do you know how the south got to be such good Democrats before that? That was because Lincoln, the guy who freed the slaves, was a Republican.

As I said earlier, prejudice isn't limited to the south, but there are certainly solid, historic reasons to associate prejudice with the south. John, you really don't know what you're talking about. In fact, taking your remarks as a whole puts me back at my original position on the anti-Ford commercials. Barry almost had me convinced, but then I saw you agreed with him and I figure if someone that ignorant takes the same position as Barry, there has to be a flaw in Barry's position somewhere.

(Seriously, Barry, you may be right about this. You, as opposed to some who agree with you, always have intelligent things to say.)

Barry is correct, IMO, that the girl's reference to the Playboy party incident is trying to play against Ford ads showing him in churches.

No more, no less.

As to Dems and their attitude, Chris Matthews on "Hardball" asked a guest what he felt would be the reaction to the ad if it ran at 12 midnight on a Friday in a Tennessee roadhouse with guys who had been drinking beer and smoking cigarettes.

Where does he get this crap?

What are you saying, Chris: all Tennesseans are rednecks who are beer drinkers (no Zinfindel?) and too stupid to not know or care about their lungs?

Think about that, DBK. It really is a belief that Tennesseans are simple-minded and latent bigots.

Matthews is a right-wing sort of "pundit" (and most people can't figure out what happened to the guy after he had worked for Tip O'Neill for so long) in my view, so that doesn't support the contention that it's Democrats and liberals who hold that perspective. Let's me be clear on this: just like I don't think racism is confined to the south, I don't think the view of southerners as rednecks is confined to liberals and Democrats. I remember a southern comedian who did a bit about the Andy Griffith show and how southerners on TV were all portrayed as rednecks; he said he held the same prejudiced view himself. As he put it, "I don't hear a southern accent and think, 'brain surgeon'." Now you can go ahead and blame popular media for nurturing all these stereotypes, and then we get into a way off-topic discussion of popular media (I happen to think that popular media brands everyone with stereotypes: latte-drinking liberals, rednecks, soccer moms, Birkenstock-wearing lesbians, etc.), but don't hang it on me as an eastern liberal baby-killing atheist intellectual New York Jew.

And Mrs DBK drives a Volvo.

Anyway, I said I was beginning to see Barry's side of things. Except for one of the people supporting Barry's position, I might be agreeing already. :-)

Posted by DBK:

Matthews is a right-wing sort of "pundit" (and most people can't figure out what happened to the guy after he had worked for Tip O'Neill for so long) in my view, so that doesn't support the contention that it's Democrats and liberals who hold that perspective.

DBK, you can't be serious.


Right wing?

The same Chris Matthews who said he was in hopes of many indictments in the Plame kerfuffle to get 'those arrogant bastards' in the White House?

My Lord, what does that make you if he is to your right?

The mind boggles.

The South *IS* racist for the most part. I should know, I grew up there. Sure, they have toned down the language a little, but that's all.

Most sane people are racists. Only liberals promote other races and cultures over their own. There is nothing wrong with racism. The NAACP is a racist organization, isn't it? If you don't think so, I will list some quotations from their leaders.

So, when we act all silly over racism, we really mean "White racism" ... black and hispanic racism are OK.

So the fact that I find my European racial qualities and culture to be vastly superior to African or Mexican culture makes me a racist. This is why I became a Republican, and voted that way right up until traitor Chimp took office.

Chimp betrayed his own race and culture, choosing instead to focus exclusively on the promotion of a few mega-wealthy clans and corporations. He doesn't give a damn if Mexicans invade and ruin our country. He doesn't give a damn about the middle class holding the country together. He is an elitist, priviledged frat boy.

If the Democrats can shuck off the gays and the more shrill and whining elements of the party and go back to their Dixiecrat roots, I will vote for them.

For now, I'm just voting against Bush. Rubber stamping this idiot was the dumbest thing the Repug party ever did.

"...I would guess that there are still enough racists there to change the course of an election that is polling with the margin of error (the last poll I saw had the two candidates at something like .6% difference). And don't make the mistake of thinking that everyone thinks the racists are all in the south. Some of us remember quite well the things that have happened in liberal Boston, Massachusetts. And also in Howard Beach in New York..." (DBK)
their children, while seeming to "understand the black's suspicions over that program."

Both sides had the same very reasonable antipathy toward that typically naive "Liberal solution" to "the race problem."

I give Harold Ford Jr. credit for NOT engaging in racial demagoguery over the ad, sadly his family does him no favors.

As Blue correctly notes, Ford is a relatively Conservative Democrat - hopefully, that is if Democrats hope to ever make any real and lasting inroads in electability, the future of that Party.

I believe the ad, a creation by an independent organization (thank McCain-Feingold for taking such ads out of the hands of the candidates and political Parties) was put together by people who understood Tennessee's culture, seeking to brand Ford a hypocrite and thus "not a true, or 'real' Conservative," within that very Conservative State.

Sadly, those who made this into a racial issue, painting Corker's Conservative supporters as rabid racists and Ford a victim, did Harold Ford Jr no favors there.

Ten days til the Election. It'll be interesting to see what, if any impact the Michael J Fox ads will have, the Allen attacks on Webb's "child porn passages," the Corker ad and any last minute "October surprises" by either side will have on these constests.

I don't know about NJ - I'd call it a toss up.

I think MO is staying Red and I believe both Allen and Corker win, though I do like Harold Ford. Next to the ex-Senator from GA, Zell Miller, he's my favorite Democrat.

I predict that Repugs will hold the senate but lose the house. They are pouring it on for those senate seats, and all the racism and sexism will work with the retard vote (evangelicals).

Wow, mal, one quote makes an entire career, eh? And that quote was about someone who had exposed the identity of an undercover CIA agent. And the person or person who did it most certainly work at the White House. So in your world, I suppose, wanting criminals in the White House to be indicted is a left-wing idea. Not such a bad thing for the left-wing, I would say.

But as far as being to my left, do you have any idea what you are talking about? Do you pretend that I am somehow a "leftist" because I support Democratic candidates over Republican candidates this year? Tell me what sort of "leftist" ideas I have espoused around here? Do you even know what "left-wing" and "right-wing" mean? Do you know what a "liberal" is versus a "conservative"?

And what was the meaning of dragging in my views, personally, as some sort of comparison to Matthews? You really don't have a clue in this one, baby.

Liberal: baby killing communist sympathizer who hates God and America but supports Al Quida, NAMBLA, witchcraft, and worships Satan.

Conservative: gallant God-fearing patriot, who fights for freedom and believes in Life, fearlessly oppossing Evil at any personal cost.

DMK, the fact that you refer to Matthews as a right-wing sort of pundit explains your views on issues regardless of whether you care to acknowledge it or not.

I have listened to Matthews for years going back to his days on the McLaughlin Report and have never once heard him utter anything I would consider to be consistent with right-wing ideology.

For the record, go back and re-read my words before accusing me of labeling you as a leftist. It is not a term I employ as I despised it when I was a liberal Democrat what with its McCartyish intonations.

Apologies for the typo on your handle, DBK. No disrespect meant!

Denialist types like you are truely fools. NJ? I lived there for about 30 years. When did it start to go down hill? In and about 93, and it picked up speed from there. I don't care if more Republicrats were busted than Dempublicans. Why, because they're all stinking liberals. You mentioned the Chritopher Christie bust in Momouth, but you didn't mention the McGreevy's adminastration. You know the most corrupt in NJ history, not to mention one of the most Liberal and Democrat ever. Now, when I say slime pit, I'm not talking about the physical state. Anyone who knows NJ, like lived there, knows it is very nice indeed. However, politics in NJ make New Orleans look clean. If you really want to argue that point why don't you just pick a fight with a sign post, you'll get further. Remember facts? Yeh, I bet. Idiots like yourself don't make me laugh. Not only are you allowed to vote, but your home state probably lets you drive to. Truely frightening on both counts.

As far a you history lesson is concerned; I already know about the solid south, Nixon's campaign based on race and so on. Your insinuation that the Republican Party (of which I don't belong) is one big tent for racist is just the type of bull I was refering to. Thank you for making my point. You can keep NJ, I'll stay in PA. Thankyou very much.

"John, you really don't know what you're talking about."

Pot calling kettle black. Why don't you find a shoe horn and pull your head out of your ass. Have a nice day sweetie.

Man I like this "John the Marine" guy.

Now here's a solid reason to support Corker.

Here's a few RNC ads that are pretty damned funny using the phoney racial angle;


It goes without saying that I'll be voting for Ford here in Tennessee. I'm sick of having two Republican Senators .

He's pro-gun, which should bring in some otherwise GOP voters.

I LIKE Ford. He's Conservative enough.

I only wish more Dems would see the light and see that as the way to go.

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