A Tennessee congressman advocated for stripping racist symbols from his home state while accusing Republicans of opposing Obamacare because President Obama is black.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said he supports GOP Gov. Bill Haslam’s statement that he’d “be in favor of discontinuing” license plates offered with the Confederate flag.
“It’s been insensitive and it’s been there for 13 years. But I commend Governor Haslam for taking the effort,” Cohen told MSNBC. “It will have to be a state legislative act to remove those license plates and they should be, and I commend him also for suggesting that Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust, which is right before you go in the State House of Representatives, should be removed. It’s there and there’s no reason for it to be.”
Haslam said of the KKK leader and Confederate general, “That would not be one of the Tennesseans I would honor.”
There shouldn’t be much opposition. Blue Dog Dem Rep. Jim Cooper tweeted Monday that “symbols of hate shouldn’t be promoted by government” and the Forrest bust should go. Both GOP senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, expressed support for removing the Confederate flag early in the South Carolina debate.
Cohen said the next to go should be Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park. “That’s a large park with signs on the highway directing you to it, and the governor should be consistent and also have the name of that park changed as well,” the congressman said.
Cohen noted that he’s the only white Southern progressive representing a majority black district.
“Sometimes, it takes tragedy and crisis to bring people to their senses. You know, there’s been a lot of change going on in the country and generally things happen for the best. There’s still some things that are slow to happen,” he said.
“…The country gets better, it gets more progressive and a lot of it is younger people not being born with and being exposed to prejudices and thoughts that aren’t scientific or aren’t tolerant, and they’re starting to voice their opinions and participate in the political process. And they’re making it better all over the country.”
He called it “wonderful if we take the flag down and it’s wonderful if we remove the bust and change the name of the park,” but “substantive policy” changes are needed.
“But we need a voting rights bill. We need the Voting Rights Act renewed. We need to have changes in the criminal justice system. We need reforms with police relations with minorities in the inner cities. We need opportunities for people to get jobs with job training and we need people to forget about being against Affordable Care Act,” Cohen said.
“A lot of the reason they’re against it is because it’s President Obama, who’s African-American, and because it helps a lot of people that are poor and lower income. And so, in a lot of places that happens to be African-American people,” he continued. “We need to understand that everybody has a right to health are, that we’re all — as President Kennedy said in that famous speech at the American University — we’re all on the same planet, we breathe the same air and we have the same desire for our children. We’re all the same and we need to understand that.”