The other Harold Ford Jr. race card

Forget racist whites -- did the GOP do a number on black Tennessee women?

By Chris Colin
Published November 10, 2006 9:13PM (EST)

Did the GOP's inflammation of white bigotry in Tennessee's Senate race work double duty on black women? Debra Dickerson picks up the thread in the Washington Monthly, wondering whether Harold Ford Jr.'s "penchant for 'nonpartisan' dating" became "the straw that broke Tennessee's sisters' backs."

The question was ignored by the mainstream press, which fixated on the effect of the attack ad -- featuring a fictional white woman inviting Ford to call her -- on white voters. But Slate's Mickey Kaus considered it two weeks ago, as did Political Sapphire and Booker Rising, a site for black moderates and conservatives.

"The extremely tense feelings that many Black women have about Black men who 'abandon sisters' in their dating choices is well-known -- in the Black community, anyhow," Shanikka at Political Sapphire writes. "Go to any space in which single heterosexual Black women congregate and you will likely, over time, hear examples of it. Many of whom are single -- in part because they would never consider marrying a white man (history ain't that old YET in the South) -- and deeply resent Black men who date across racial lines at a time when there are only 90.1 Black men alive for every 100 Black women."

Meanwhile, the Christian Progressive Liberal tweaks the abiding "Why couldn't you find a good black woman to marry?" question:

"I say he should be able to date who he wants, if he's going to become a private citizen. But since he's an ambitious politician, my advice to him ... was not to hand Bob Corker and the ReThugs ammunition to shoot him with."

Of course, the idea isn't that black women would decide to vote for Corker -- it's that they wouldn't vote.

"There's likely not a Black woman in Tennessee who would vote *for* Bob Corker solely because of an accusation that Harold Ford is hitting it -- or trying to -- with white girls," Shanikka writes. "Sisters are lots of things, but politically stupid generally isn't one of them ... Instead, they just stay home."

The central question -- did Ford's love life alienate black female voters? -- remains theoretical and speculative, at least until more data comes in. But buried in a CNN exit poll is a possibly telling statistic: Though Tennessee women as a whole preferred Ford, married women went with Corker. Did marital status inform how the "jungle fever" strategy might have played out? Even less explored in all this: How did the state's black male voters react to the issue?

Finally, because you can't discuss charismatic black politicians without mentioning him, might Barack Obama ultimately benefit from what Booker Rising calls Ford's "impulsive love for white women"? Many of the online discussions featured affirming references to the Illinois senator's marriage to a black woman, and a dark-skinned black woman at that. Needless to say, the GOP has two years to spin that one into a minefield, too.

Chris Colin

Chris Colin is the author most recently of "Blindsight," published by the Atavist.

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