The Rise and Fall of Herman Cain
Look, I love Herman Cain. If not for anything else, than for the multitude of content that he gave us. I actually considered making a Herman Cain category on the blog. It’s that serious. The man is a freaking gold mine. From wondering if we should have some weird mixture of pride and hate towards him for both being a buffoon and kind of a symbol of progress, to outright just hating him, I’ve pretty much run the gamut on feelings towards him. He’s been a serious contender and a fringe candidate just for laughs. His recent struggles were kind of a mixture of a terribly sad drama and a terribly funny comedy, and I don’t think we would have gotten so much depth and range of feeling about any other candidate, including Obama. But now that the dust has settled and Mr. Cain has suspended his campaign (but not ended it…so he can still make money) in the wake of a waterfall of sexual misconduct and infidelity allegations, I can finally see what his story really told us. And it really told us what we thought we knew about race the whole time. Nothing has really changed.
Look, it’s hard enough to be a Black man out here. I think Herman, despite all of his willingness to turn a blind eye on racism when it suited him, finally figured this one out. He didn’t get forced out because he was dumber than the other guys (Michelle Bachmann still makes even him look like a Rhodes Scholar) and it wasn’t simply because of an ill-timed scandal (see Newt Gingrich, the current frontrunner). This wasn’t about the presence of controversy. It wasn’t even really about the type of controversy (sexual misconduct). It was almost all about the fact that he was Black. Although I still disagree with their motivations (and really wish they would just shut the fuck up) some folks on Fox News had it right when they called the undoing of his campaign a “high-tech lynching.” But he brought it on himself through his feigned obliviousness. He committed the cardinal sin for any Black man in the public eye. He got caught harassing and having sex with white women. Don’t think it’s a big deal in 2011? Name the last movie or show you saw that WASN’T based on the entire premise of interracial relationships that featured a Black man getting down with a White woman. You can’t. Will Smith hasn’t even done it…and everyone loves Will Smith.
It’s perhaps the one thing where the ancient vein of racism still lies the strongest. Makes sense, considering the totally manufactured propaganda fear of Black men raping white women was the entire basis for segregation and American racial codes like Jim Crow. You’ll be much more likely to get images of Black men still being savages to white women than actually engaging in consensual relationships. And we just kinda…accept it. I doubt even Obama, who has a White mother, would survive the barrage of allegations Cain has been receiving. They just don’t have the leeway with it that say a Bill Clinton has (or a Newt Gingrich, apparently).
Herman Cain committed the cardinal sin for a Black man trying to be in power. He got too comfortable. The reality is that as a successful Black guy you kinda have to have the overly sensitive suspicion that someone will try to use whatever they can to get rid of you. Often times you have to be extra careful and go above and beyond what others do in order to cover your bases. It’s called the double consciousness (and I know Herman read about it at Morehouse) and it might not be fair, but disregard it at your peril. The moment you let your guard down and overestimate your peers in thinking that you will be treated the same as them is the moment you lose. I think Cain fell victim to this. The majority of the claims against him weren’t really thoroughly examined enough to really merit a campaign suspension. And the last claim, from the appropriately-named Ginger White, was really just infidelity, which may be devastating to his family but not really grounds for not running. Quite a few Presidents and famous men in general have weathered identical allegations. At the end of the day it was just too many strikes against Mr. Cain who already had the disadvantaged of being Black and not too bright. He got too comfortable.
He very well may end up as someone’s running mate (the stupid “Black vs Black” ideology in a lot of Republican circles hasn’t gone away), but this is really the story of a puppet who wasn’t really mindful of his strings and strangled in them. He was only on top as long as the power base was going to allow, and he was only going as far as people thought they could use him. He was useful to some of the more racist financiers and supporters of the Right because he advanced the idea that they weren’t racist (because they had Black friends) and also served as the cog in that stupid “Black vs Black” symmetry that a lot of folks believed in. He didn’t remember it and I think he genuinely began to believe his bullshit about race not mattering. And when things got too uncomfortable for them, they ejected him as unceremoniously as the token Republican Blacks before him. He could take broad swaths of domestic policy from Pokemon and Sim City; that’s cool, but he really ran for a party with members who call Obama a monkey regularly and thought he wouldn’t be on the first jet to Georgia when even a little trouble hit? Sounds like a guy not smart enough to be the President anyways.
At the end of the day I’m glad he’s gone. Maybe we can forget about the fact that he went to my alma mater sooner than later. But damn, it was pretty damn hilarious while it lasted. Farewell, Herman Cain aka Herman Coon aka 2 Cainz. We’ll miss you.
But not really.