Herman Cain — A Perspective

-By Gregory Stewart

(Ed note: Mr. Stewart and I had a great conversation in Denver not long ago and the question about why black Americans are not coming to the GOP in larger numbers became a topic of discussion. I asked Gregory to put down some of his thoughts on the matter.)

In a recent conversation I had with a friend about Herman Cain, he stated that race, as an issue, would not be a factor. This rationalization is, of course, flawed. The fact that the media will not use race as a way to divert and parse out differences is simply naive. Case in point, in the recent accusations of sexual harassment of women by Cain, Charles Krauthammer, a Fox News analyst and conservative columnist, asked Herman Cain if race was behind the controversy (video).

CAIN: I believe the answer is yes, but we do not have any evidence to support it. But because I am unconventional candidate running an unconventional campaign and achieving some unexpected unconventional results in terms of my, the poll, we believe that, yes, there are some people who are Democrats, liberals, who do not want to see me win the nomination. And there could be some people on the right who don’t want to see me because I’m not the, quote/unquote, “establishment candidate.” No evidence.

Essentially, race is and will be a factor, whether it is rooted in conservative or liberal rhetoric. To think that race will not be some part of American politics for the near future is to ignore the political polarization that drives corporate and popular interests in this country. Moreover, within the context of this polarization is how the narrative is exceedingly defined, for the most part, by the conservative model–and which factor conservatives wish to attach its brand of populism.

The assertion by conservatives that this is a “liberal” driven story in order to usurp Cain’s popularity only creates further dissension within the populace of independent and moderate voters in the electorate. For instance, on the October 31, 2011 broadcast of Hannity on Fox.. Host Sean Hannity himself, along with Ann Coulter, put forward the allegation that Herman Cain was part of a “High-Tech lynching” (video). Ann Coulter states that racism is the driving force behind the Poltico.com series (article) against Herman Cain. She said:

COULTER: People who don’t like Obamacare is, oh, you must be racist. No, I think we are upset because he is wrecking the country. Maybe that figures in to it, we are against socialized healthcare. And this is why liberals detest, detest, detest, conservative blacks. I mean, they harange blacks and tell them, you can’t be Republican, you can’t be Republican, it is so hard for a black to be a Republican. And then when we don’t have that many Republicans or blacks showing up at a Republican event, oh, you have no blacks there. Well, maybe if you want haranguing them so much.In any event, this is now the second time a conservative black has had outrageous and what appear to be —

The rhetoric Ann Coulter employs makes a salient point of why race is a factor within the American body politic. It also fraught with baseless generalities in which liberalism and racism has been defined and is also why the Republican establishment has problems attracting black Americans to the party. This attack mode rhetoric demonstrates to black Americans that the insufferable hypocrisy put on by the party of Lincoln since the Southern Strategy of 1968 left blacks abandoned and unwanted. Therefore, the loyalty to which black Americans have to the Democratic Party was due to necessity and that it was Democratic presidents, which have achieved the culmination of social justice for people of color. Yet, the inequity remains in the economic houses of black Americans. Poverty levels, despite some progress and achievements, remain largely disparate. In access to healthcare, jobs, and education, black Americans are at the bottom.

A recent Pew Research Center (July 2011) report finds the financial crisis and generational opportunities are furthering the disparity of economic opportunities and wealth generation. The positioning of the party on this access and fairness to the average Joe has been perverted by the last century and beyond the neoliberal economic model; which in simple terms is defined as cutting-taxes, cutting-governmental spending, and cutting-regulations.This model also believes in the deconstruction of social programs and the middle-class by way of the elimination of unions, social security, and medicare.

But the aforementioned programs allowed for people of color and the economically disadvantaged to close the gap in wealth generation and opportunities. These programs have been co-opted into the American Mythos and how they have been disintegrated by the neoliberalism model of capitalism in the last 30 years. The stories that make up ideological belief in the American Dream is often revealed in our “deep narrative,” as Robert Wuthnow puts forth, in the tasking of the ruggedness of individualism of the American spirit. Yet, the inequities and disparities as seen by the people of color, blacks in particular, causes them to see themselves as outsiders (or more specifically “the other”) until recently.

This feeling of being “the other” returns to me to my initial point of why race will be part of the near future landscape despite the declaration of “we have arrived.” The main color in politics is green and while there is profit in creating separateness, the American Dream, that belief that “we are one” out of the many, cannot be fully realized and the disambiguated unification of hope cannot be seized with that “otherness” permeating the atmosphere. American blacks are not “brainwashed” by Democrats as asserted by Herman Cain in his CNN appearance on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer (video). Cain stated that,

Because many African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open-minded, not even considering a conservative point of view. I have received some of that same vitriol simply because I am running for the Republican nomination as a conservative…. So it’s just brainwashing and people not being open-minded, pure and simple.

He was wrong, of course, because most black Americans are opened to conservative point of view. An example of this openness to conservatism could be seen in the exit polling conducted by Edison/Mitofsky for the national media outlets ABC/AP/CNN/CBS/FOX News/NBC news during the voting on California’s Proposition 8 (which eliminated same sex marriage from the California’s constitution). A majority of blacks voted for it, 75 to 25, which were primarily women. Latino men (54 to 46) and women (52 to 48) seem to have been evenly divided. Also, in general, according to Pew Research Center, black Americans are more religious and more conservative on social issues than the average American. Herman Cain’s assertion is simply wrong. The issue with Herman Cain, in this writer’s view, is that black-Americans see him as a fraud; and, they see his candidacy as a show piece for the party–which only reinforces their belief–that the Republican Party is inauthentic.

Certainly Cain’s continual gaffes beyond the sexual harassment issues shows his incompetence. For instance, his flubs on China (CBS; PBS) Libya (full interview), and his flawed 999 tax plan even as seen by conservatives (read here) only demonstrates to black American he is nowhere near ready for prime time.

Additionally, the Republican Party’s hard-core principal that individualism above the community cements black Americans credence that to access the body politic of the party requires one to do gymnastics if one is viewed as the “other” to gain acceptance. Herman Cain’s minstrel show antics and apparent incompetence on the issues has only confirmed black Americans opinion in that belief. Thus, to think that race will not be an issue if Herman Cain was to be nominated is simply naive and provides false hope to the idea of equity, when socioeconomically black Americans are so far below the horizon.

Copyright Publius Forum 2001