Should We Be Proud of Herman Cain?
Who would have thought we would live to see the day when we had TWO viable Black candidates for the Presidency? For whatever reason it seems that George W. Bush was such an awful President that he made Black candidates (and Black politicians as a whole) apparently much more palatable to the country as a whole. Hell, we got a Black President out of the deal. During the 2008 election the nominee of the third party US Green Party, Cynthia McKinney was also Black, so having two Black people in the field this late in the game has actually happened twice in the last two election cycles. Hell, regardless of how shitty things still are for minorities and poor people here, we know times have changed a little bit because Al Sharptonis the anchor of an acclaimed news show on MSNBC. Read that again and imagine going back just five years and telling people that the Reverend Al would have a show on anything other than BET. Laughable. CNN even gave DL Hughley a show for a while
And with personalities like Roland Martin (who we have addressed here before), Goldie Taylor, Donna Brazile and Don Lemon emerging in the realm of political theory, media and political commentary it definitely does appear that all three sides of politics are darkening. So the stage seems to be set.
And Cain appears to be a serious candidate. Despite not having any type of real platform beyond “Obamacare sucks, I hate Muslims and I know business,” he has fared well, defeating the favored Southern candidate Rick Perry in a Florida Republican straw poll and then defeating the polished party front-runner Mitt Romney in the Missouri straw poll. Granted, his main opponents’ platforms have been “Obamacare wasn’t actually my idea even though it was” and “I will kill you if you fuck up in Texas,” but he appears to have been gaining some real ground and threatens this week with some serious missteps from Rick Perry to become the party’s second-choice candidate. He appears to have a bit more business savvy than the other candidates, all who have been clamoring to suck at the teat of Big Business to get votes, and has opposed healthcare reform for decades, having come to prominence in a video combating former President Bill Clinton during his first term push for healthcare reform. I’ve read four articles in the past two days about why we should take Herman Cain seriously, and while I am still highly doubtful of him being anything more than a Bradley Effect posterboy, as of right now, Herman Cain is serious.
What should we as Black people make of it? We aren’t a monolith, and Mr. Cain counts on that fact as he is optimistic that he can take 1/3 of the Black vote away from Obama. We are diverse, but tend to vote and side Democrat, even though people such as Cain have suggested that we do so less so because of a rational self-interest than because we have somehow been “brainwashed.” He also seems to be on the latest wave of “Church Republicans,” or Black Republicans who appeal to the older, socially conservative block of Black voters. There are Black Republicans who we as a whole have accepted, from the almost universal adulation of Colin Powell to the begrudging respect we seem to have given Condoleeza Rice, especially in the light of her recent book. Should the Black community, which tends to look at Black conservatives with wariness at best, give Cain the same exemption is affords Powell? Should we actually allow ourselves to be proud of him and his achievements in pushing color lines (albeit from the other side)?
My view is complex. For one, Herman Cain graduated from my alma mater, Morehouse College. Granted, his public speaking skills indicate that he either skipped a few ProCom classes or that communication classes weren’t as good back in the day, but his success is a testament to the types of ambitions I like to believe that mother Morehouse instills in her sons. Nothing is too big or daunting. I mean how many HBCUs could end up with an alum having a Presidential nomination? In addition to this, Cain’s story reminds me exactly of the type of drive my father instilled upon me. I grew up learning working class ideals in a family that took as much stock in Washington’s ideals as Dubois’s. To misquote the motto of Clark Atlanta University, we found a way or made one. Cain is no different. His father was a chauffeur to whites but taught Cain to never be ashamed at doing what he had to do to provide. His own rise was meteoric from lower middle class backgrounds, and he became one of the most well-respected Black CEOs in the country before becoming a candidate. For anyone who wishes to teach their Black children that they can actually do anything in life, how can we NOT use Herman Cain as an example? I can guarantee that his upbringing was more similar to mine than say a Barack Obama.
But on the other hand, I think Herman Cain is a buffoon. A dangerous buffoon who has no idea how the political system works and who uses well-played race cards to his advantage. He always claims he cannot see the racism in the Republican party and in the Tea Party as a whole and loves to play up to some myth of colorblindness among Tea Party voters that nobody believes but him. He claims that the primary reason Blacks rarely vote Republican is because we have been “brainwashed,” not just because the interests of their party tend to be at large diametrically opposed to the interests of most Blacks. However, as soon as race became an issue he could exploit, he took advantage, as he did recently in denouncing Rick Perry as a racist for the Niggerhead fiasco ((it’s no coincidence that polls show Cain surging and threatening to overtake Perry very soon). Somehow as a man of working class origins he espoused philosophies that would hurt the very people he came from. And he absolutely hates other minorities. From his idiotic comments in the early campaign against Muslims and Sharia law to recent debates about undocumented immigrants, he has shown a consistent burning disdain for folks who don’t look like…his opponents. For a man who has clearly experienced struggle and grew up during the Civil Rights era, he is callous and blind to the struggle for rights of other groups, such as homosexuals. It baffles me how he can be so out of touch. His expertise in politics is limited-to-nonexistant, even by post-Reagan celebrity politician standards. If he somehow by some major catastrophe became the President of United States it would be the worst mistake in the electoral history of the country, bar none. So no, I can’t be proud of his views or what he stands for.
At the end of the day, I’m not quite sure what to think of Herman Cain. On an intellectual level, I am almost repulsed by the man and his willingness to abandon the needs of the most disadvantaged of his people. I do think that Black leaders owe some sort of tribute to their communities because of what the founders of those communities fought and died for to give them. I think Cain is out of touch with this mandate and is simply unfit for leadership. However, I think that he does represent a small part of what America SHOULD be. I can tell my brother, my cousins, and the boys I mentor that they can be President one day with the full knowledge that they see two men that look like them on the highest stage in all the world doing that very thing. In a perverse way, Cain is a trailblazer.
That’s gotta count for something, right?