On Herman Cain and the Obamanation of Racial Politics

Herman Cain is a black black man. He’s got an accent. He was, in his words, po before he was poor. And he’s wildly popular — get this, with Republicans. Herman Cain is a southern conservative straight-shooter and currently leading some polls among Republican primary voters.

Herman Cain is an impressive man — and particularly compelling on the bread-and-butter issues that concern most Americans. But he’s not likely to win the nomination for the following reasons:

  • He lacks any organization in key primary states. While he doesn’t seem disturbed by this deficit, and it could be that his campaign is ground-breaking in appealing directly to voters without organizing on the ground, it’s hard to predict him a winner against candidates who are doing the hard on-the-ground conventional work of appealing to individual voters.
  • He lacks any political experience — arguably a plus for the voters who distrust seasoned politicians, but never historically a plus for Republican voters angling to win the general election. And it doesn’t help that one of the chief Republican criticisms of Barack Obama is his lack of experience, his meteoric rise way beyond himself after community organizing and two years as a Senator. The president has gotten some on-the-job training — but Republicans would still like to say, he wasn’t ready and he’s been inept, which is a more difficult argument if Republicans nominate someone who himself lacks any political experience.
  • He lacks foreign policy expertise, to put it mildly, and has committed some gaffes in this area that give foreign-policy-focused Republicans pause.
  • His insistence that he would never name a Muslim to his cabinet — while presumably designed as red-meat for voters idiotically obsessed with the imposition of Sharia law — cast doubt on his presidential ability to be inclusive. (To his credit, he back-tracked on this a bit. But it’s out there.)

If he nevertheless wins the nomination, count me a supporter. I just don’t think he will.

Which leads me to the Obamanation of racial politics. Some Democrats just don’t know what to do with a black man making headway in Republican primary politics. It can’t be that Republicans aren’t racist. And it can’t be that a black man could be conservative. So it must be a scheme — which narrative takes the following forms:

  • Herman Cain is a tool of the diabolical Koch brothers, a veritable Manchurian Candidate, poised for power and ultimate execution of the Plan. In other words, he’s not really black or real — just a puppet with a black face. (In short, the traditional slander against any African-American who dares to buck liberal dogma.)
  • Herman Cain is in it to make Republicans “feel good.” Or as Democratic strategist and former spokeswoman of the DNC Karen Finney told MSNBC, “I think he makes that white Republican base of the party feel okay, feel that they’re not racist because they can like this guy, I think they like him because he’s a black man who knows his place.” Knows his place?! Could you be more condescendingly racist?
  • Herman Cain won’t win the nomination — which confirms the racism of Republicans — or, as random ridiculous bomb-thrower Bill Maher put it: “I will put up a million dollars against one that he will not be the Republican nominee. A million to one… I will give you a million dollars if you think that the Republicans are going to have an election with two black guys against each other. That they don’t have a choice to vote for a white man in the general election. That will never happen.”

These are three distinct species of disrespect for African-Americans and recklessly base contempt for Republicans.

1. The notion that an African-American cannot really be a conservative — and that if he’s posing as one, he must be a tool of white conservative interests — is preposterously condescending. It suggests that all African-Americans merrily think the same. And it suggests further that a couple of rich white guys who support an African-American candidate must therefore control him, because it couldn’t be that the African-American candidate thinks for himself, which he probably doesn’t do in the first place, thinking that is, being conservative.

It may be that the left should no longer take for granted people of color. It may be that people of color have diverse views. It may be that some people of color reach conservative views for legitimate reasons. Shocking, to be sure — but given the broad-brush racism painted on Republicans for opposing President Obama’s policies, isn’t is just a bit racist to hammer Herman Cain as a tool of white interests just because conservative white people like and support him?

2. That any ostensible spokesperson of anything could speak of Herman Cain as a man who “knows his place” bespeaks a profound tone-deafness in leftist racial politics. This, to me, is the nadir of the Democratic party race-card. Yes, Karen Finney was presuming to describe Republican reaction to Herman Cain. She hoped to belittle Republicans — but she most shockingly belittled a black man. A black man who “knows his place.” I don’t have words. It speaks for itself.

I don’t believe Herman Cain will win the nomination — but if he does, and he becomes president, he’ll be the post-racial-president that Obama articulately promised and starkly failed to deliver.

3. And finally, Bill Maher’s easy sleazy prophecy — Herman Cain can’t be the nominee because white Republicans won’t stand for it. (Eyes roll.) I’m betting a million dollars to your one, seriously, a million dollars, that Bill Maher won’t be the Democratic nominee for president because Democrats would never permit a rich repugnant white ass to usurp their half-black man, especially if a black-black man might be his competitor. You see my point?

Bill Maher and his ilk are determined to paint Republicans as racists. It’s trickier if a black man is popular in Republican politics — so the solution is to call Republicans racists for not nominating Herman Cain. Anything to call Republicans racists.

It’s exactly the rhetoric of Karen Finney and Bill Maher that produces more black conservatives — men and women sick of being stereotyped by the left, tired of the canard that an African-American must be a liberal, and that any deviation from liberal dogma makes them a traitor and an Uncle Tom.

We’re not even close to post-racial — one of the reasons I’ll vote for anyone over Barack Obama because I took that promise seriously — and reaction to Herman Cain tells me the right has a better chance of being post-racial than the left.


16 Responses to On Herman Cain and the Obamanation of Racial Politics

  1. lbwoodgate says:

    Quite a change from the Kendrick who just a few short posts ago said “I believe Mitt Romney will be our next president.” and “I’m getting used to President Romney”. You seem to be reflective of the many other GOP electorate that seem to go with the prevailing wind.

    Now technically, I realize that you have not negated Romney from your Presidential candidate selection but you must confess that you seem to be caught up in the moment with the recent Cain surge. I can’t fault you for that but there is more to dislike about Cain than you let on that moderates and independents will study closer.

    1st, his connection with Wall Street and his obvious disdain for the “small people” that protests the defects of capitalism. This may garner much support in the pro-corporate ranks of Tea Partyism but for those likely serious conservative voters who have lost their homes and jobs or know some one close who has and those who rely on social security and medicare, Herman Cain is a threat to them.

    2nd, the more exposure he gets now topping the GOP list the more his flaws will be exposed, kind of like what happened to Perry. He’s just a different looking model of the same failed policies under Bush/Cheney and though many people don’t feel Obama has done what it takes to turn this economy around (including me but not for the reasons his GOP critics claim), I’m not sure the independents and moderates are ready to jump back on board this trickle-down wagon again that put us where we are in the first place.

    And lastly, as cynical as Maher’s comments are, I suspect he’s more right than wrong. The southern white vote that has always been the GOP mainstay will be weak as a presence on election day. It’s a fact that even I hate to admit Kendrick but racism is alive and well here in the South and Blacks, like Jews during economic hard times, become the whipping boys of these mullet-haired, tattooed types down here.

    I still say that the GOP’s best chance to give Obama a real challenge is Hunter but that will fail to materialize because he doesn’t keep the anger and hate stoked to create a following.

    • No, I haven’t departed from my support for Mitt Romney. I’m simply making a point about racial politics hypocrisy. The treatment of Herman Cain by the left has been, in my opinion, far worse than the right’s treatment of Barack Obama. For the left, disagreement with Barack Obama’s policies has been tantamount to racism — and by that preposterous standard, the treatment of Herman Cain has been massively racist. And here I’m emphasizing that it’s a preposterous standard — very nearly a self-fulfilling prophecy for those determined to find racism anywhere they can. Yes, of course, Larry, racism is alive and well and likely will always be, a segment of our species being incorrigibly tribal . But it’s not a “Southern” phenomenon, and it’s not even remotely so pronounced among conservatives as the left so ardently desires to believe. The racism narrative produces mindlessness on both sides — the left need not actually think about policy differences if policy disagreements can be conveniently, lazily, ascribed to racism. The right need not actually think about policy differences if they can simply roll their eyes at yet another yawn-inducing accusation that they’re racists. And you are contributing to that mindlessness by actually crediting Bill Maher’s filth — which declares idiotically that the Republican party base won’t tolerate two black men running for president. The opposite is true. Herman Cain is not my preferred candidate for several reasons — and guess what? One of them is not because he’s black. in fact, the fact that he’s black makes me like him enormously more than I would if he were a white guy running on his platform. Why? Because I deeply admire the courage of black conservatives who put up with the nonsense they have to endure from their own communities and from the left — and because I, and so many Republicans, would love nothing more than to take race off the table and make this a true debate on the merits. The prospect makes me very nearly giddy, as I was very nearly giddy at the post-racial promise of Barack Obama, who has yet to take a single step or even utter a wee peep toward post-racialism. And meanwhile, some of his minions advance the very opposite of post-racial. So, yes, if Herman Cain becomes the nominee, I’m there in a big way. I just don’t believe he will be, and it’s not because Republicans are racist. The opposite in fact.

      • Jeff says:

        “The treatment of Herman Cain by the left has been, in my opinion, far worse than the right’s treatment of Barack Obama.”

        Third sentence of your comment above. I completely disagree and am shocked to my core, breathless, jaw agape, having read it over and over to make sure I am not making a mistake, This is really your opinion? Not that I would ever criticize it in some ad hominem attack.

        I could even agree if it had contained some sort of qualifying clause like, …”at the same point in their respective campaigns” or “at the same point in their emergence on the national stage”. Cain has emerged earlier, higher in the polls, he has said some ral goofy and funny stuff, as you have pointed out. So he has drawn a critical eye for some half baked ideas. You don’t think the media went after Barack on his “Community Organizer” job status, his friends in church and in the Weathermen. So far, Cain’s wife hasn’t been ridiculed, his citizenship hasn’t been questioned, outright lies have not been spread about plans to alter the National Anthem, Socialize the Economy, etc., nor has Cain been called a liar on the floor of the House of Representatives. Please don’t make me repost my long (yet not complete) list of outrageous attacks infering Nazism, Socialism, and Terrorist tendencies of the present President. And Cain has suffered what by the left? Gotta go, the jaw doctor worked me in so I could get this thing back in place.

        • You’re right. I stand properly corrected. The claim required a qualification such as “at the same point in their respective campaigns.” Obama has had years longer in the public eye as candidate and as president. That said, I think it’s a bit insensitive in these hard times to talk about splurging on jaw doctors.

        • Sedate Me says:

          I have evidence that Hermain Cain was born to an atheist couple in Uganda and that he regularly delivered pizza to Idi Amin. He has yet to respond to my allegations. So that must mean they’re true!

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  5. Paul Grubbs says:

    Racism is alive and well. Unfortunately it is not limited just to the the tattooed mullets in the south. Historically blue collar workers in the south have been radically Democratic. Only recently has a Republican candidate had a chance in a general election. As a life long Texan, it bothers me to suffer the prejudicial stereo typing of “southern boys.” Some of the most segregated and racially volatile neighborhoods exist in jurisdictions far north (and west) of the Mason-Dixon. The idiotic comments of Maher and Finney are alarming to the hardest of hearts. They spew some of the most god awful hate speech with impunity with little or no fear of being called out. I’m sure they secretly laugh to themselves in their inner circles of well to do friends. I am not so sure that they cannot see their arrogance and boastfulness are helping their sworn enemies. Make no mistake Cain or no Cainthe people will be at the polls come next November. May the best man (or woman) win. God bless America!

    • lbwoodgate says:

      “Racism is alive and well. Unfortunately it is not limited just to the the tattooed mullets in the south.”

      Oh, I don’t disagree at all Paul. I was just pointing out that that part of the conservative south that could pull the votes necessary to gain the electoral vote for the GOP will weaken that probability with Cain running, IMO.

      • Most, if not all, of the southern states will vote for the Republican nominee, whether it’s Mitt Romney or Herman Cain or Rick Perry. The incorrigible racists who stay home, if Herman Cain is the nominee, are a tiny, laughable, ever-more-marginalized minority — and more than offset by the excitement of many Republicans to support a black conservative.

    • Thanks Paul for making the important point that racism isn’t an exclusively Southern phenomenon, and I would go even further and say that the folks outside the South who are content to tag the South with the perniciousness of racism are actually doing less candid examination of race issues than the people in the South. Once you’ve concluded that all the racists are down there, you don’t need to examine, or even notice, the racism up here. And you certainly don’t need to consider what a post-racial community might look like, or how they might speak to each other. It’s just too easy. Southern Republicans are racists. End of discussion, tragically.

  6. lobotero says:

    Kendrick….I think Cain had NO intention of being where he is today…..his desire was that the exposure would give him more opportunity in his motivational speaking engagements and a possible regular gig on FOX or such…..I agree with you Romney will be the best person to go against Obama..anyway my 2 cents and a great post…..

  7. Jeff says:

    In other news, Herman Cain started his “Sing Across America” bus tour today. Cain will be making stops in every major city and singing show tunes and negro spirituals in any city where he is asked a tough question. Cain promised show stopping versions of “Old Man River” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and admited that if he did not gain the Republican nomination, he has gigs lined on Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour or the X Factor, he couldn’t remember which, and on Dancing with the Stars.

  8. bigdtootall says:

    @ Jeff- Did he learn this from his half brother? Really?

  9. Sedate Me says:

    I put more stock in Nortel or Enron than any of these polls. These polls are just the media’s attempt to keep this horse race full of Gluebiscuits in the headlines. The polls represents what’s wrong with campaign coverage. Pointless, speculative, numbers based on complete hot air, all trying to generate interest in a race nobody outside of Iowa should care about yet.

    The idea that Herman Cain has an equal chance of winning as Romney does is beyond laughable. I’ve got a much better chance of sleeping with Scarlet Johansson by nomination time than Cain has of winning. If I was a 1 percenter with a few spare million lying around, I’d make the same bet Maher did with ALL comers. That’s how sure I am. (Even before the “harassment scandal”.)

    But for the very reasons you mentioned alone, Herman Cain can’t win. The delusion required to think Cain can win is stunning evidence as to how insane the process has become, where such ludicrous concepts can become feasible. But, even if this poll wasn’t a meaningless joke and Cain & Romney were tied in a real race and not this phony pre-race posturing, Cain still wouldn’t win.

    1) While ham fisted, Maher is right. In the close race the poll “predicts”, just enough ballot box racism would bubble up to make the difference. Remember, the Republicans prefer the 1st Place Takes All delegate format. If only 2% of Republican voters were, not even overtly racist, but found a convenient excuse to vote against the black guy in just 2-3 key primaries, the Cain Train could get derailed. Three shutouts in a row and it’s all but over. It’s one of the reasons why I dislike the 1st Place Takes All format. It blows things out of proportion. In this case, it allows a small group of people choking on Cain’s blackness to make a big difference. A more proportionally-based delegate system would minimize such an effect and Cain would theoretically remain neck & neck with Romney in a Hillary vs Obama marathon.

    Don’t think some rival Republican’s “opposition researchers” won’t be above doing some race-baiting. Look at what Bush Co did to McCain in South Carolina in 2000. Most of these back room boys would rather damage their own future nominee than pass on a chance their candidate might benefit from the damage. Winning is the only thing that matters.

    2) Most importantly, Cain can’t win for the VERY reason he’s popular. The main reason he’s popular is because everything he does hasn’t been focus-grouped 50 times first. He’s not a talking robot. He has the balls to say (loose quote) “Let’s not beat around the bush. The name of the camp is the story and that camp’s name is Niggerhead.”

    Hell, that almost got me on the Cain Train. Everybody admires that kind of attitude until he says something a good chunk of people don’t want to hear, or people have second thoughts about voting for a “loose cannon”. A guy like Herman Cain hits a peak and then is a diminishing proposition from that moment on. (See: Ross Perot) This is why the folks who say nothing of note usually win. Voters often say they want one thing but, when it counts, do the opposite.

    Herman Cain’s rise only shows how desperate so many Republicans (and the media) are to have anybody challenge Romney. If I were to jump into the race right now, I’d probably be tied with Romney for a few weeks. Whether this is a result of anti-Mormon discrimination or anti-former-moderate discrimination, I don’t know. But it’s a solid bet Romney will win the nomination because he’s the safe bet nobody likes, but will eventually groan and settle for. Cain will return to Nobody status by April Fools Day.

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