By all accounts, Herman Cain is a smart man. He is an accomplished business executive, restaurant expert, motivational speaker and, now, top contender for the Republican nomination for president in 2012.
Cain is now embroiled in a controversy about some sexual harassment claims made by at least three women who were employees of the National Restaurant Association while he was the chief executive officer. I don’t know if their claims are true (he says they are not) but somebody thought they might have some credibility, because they paid a settlement to make them go away.
Now, if you are going to run for political office, even dogcatcher, you know that someone is going to sift through your past to find out who you are and what you’ve done. The pervasiveness of the Internet and information sites like TMZ and others means that skeletons in your closet are now fully-clothed and walking the streets with bullhorns, telling all your business.
If you are going to run for president, someone is going to find out if you smoked a joint as a teen. Someone is going to find out if you hired illegal immigrants. And someone will find out if you invited a female employee to come up to your hotel room to watch movies.
Herman Cain could not have thought that the 10-year-old allegations would remain hidden during his improbable rise in the polls. Too many people knew about the incidents for them to escape illumination.
Cain is expressing umbrage now, first at the media for reporting the allegations, and then at the possible sources of the information. Cain is blaming former campaign staffers who now work for the staff of fellow GOP contender Rick Perry, whose poll position eroded just as Cain’s was rising.
As the leader in the polls, Cain should have been prepared for the rest of the contenders to come after him, as they went after Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry before him.
It’s hard to imagine that even Cain thought he’d be at the top of the polls at this point in the race. If he thought he might win, maybe he’d have been better prepared to answer questions about his 9-9-9 tax plan, or his position on abortion, or his foreign policy positions, or why at least three female former employees at the National Restaurant Association filed sexual harassment complaints against him and why his responses to questions about the complaints keeps changing—like the GOP frontrunner.
It has obviously been determined by the powers that be in the Republican Party that if Herman Cain is the master of this ship of fools, they’d rather sink the ship than let him continue in the lead. Cain has cooled a bit on blaming some of his Republican opponents. He just wants to move on.
But it is clear from the “high-tech lynching” rhetoric, and those blaming liberals and Black people for not supporting him because they are “brainwashed” and he is conservative (as opposed to unelectable), that Cain loves the spotlight, even if he is not ready for it.
For the record, I hold a Cain candidacy in the same stature as a Sarah Palin candidacy, without the laugh track and without the effort to make stupidity chic.
Oh yeah, he’s Black.
Maybe that doesn’t mean anything in this post-racial society (I’m only snickering here because everybody doesn’t get the joke), but I’m thinking that race still matters.
Herman Cain will not be the Republican nominee. That Republican big tent has been shrinking to include only evangelical, Tea Party, conservative, anti-abortion, and anti-immigrant White people. Cain’s rise in the polls is more a testament to the weakness of the Republican field than it is any real warming to an African-American, conservative, first time candidate.
Some of those same people who tell pollsters they would vote for Cain have been the same people vehemently targeting Barack Obama for defeat before he signed the first executive order. For many of them, Obama’s sole discretion is that he is Black.
Cain is campaigning as the Black candidate that Black people don’t like. It endears him to some White voters, but it is causing a lot of them to scurry to leave the ship.
(Lou Ransom is a former managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)