Calling Herman Cain a “minstrel” is out of bounds

To my regulars: The subject of this post requires maturity and civility. If you cannot act responsibility, please don’t comment here.

A black writer who posts under the name Chauncey DeVega has written a vicious, sophomoric and unfair takedown of black Atlanta businessman Herman Cain, calling him a “minstrel for CPAC.” (h/t Dave Wiegal)

Instead, Herman Cain’s shtick is a version of race minstrelsy where he performs “authentic negritude” as wish fulfillment for White Conservative fantasies. Like the fountain at Lourdes, Cain in his designated role as black Conservative mascot, absolves the White racial reactionaries at CPAC of their sins. This is a refined performance that Black Conservatives have perfected over many decades and centuries of practice. . .

In the money shot, Cain gives the obligatory “black folks who are not Republicans are on the plantation” speech to the joyous applause of his White benefactors. And he doubles down by legitimating any opposition to President Barack Obama as virtuous and patriotic regardless of the bigoted well-springs from which it may flow.

I find that kind of criticism of black conservatives deeply offensive because it presumes that they are not entitled to think differently. Isn’t that the essence of racism — the notion that all black folk must think and act alike? Don’t racists make that very assumption?

There are very few things that Cain and I agree about. He has adopted the most rightwing views of the current Republican party, including the deluded notion that U.S. currency should be based on the gold standard. He is dead wrong about the Affordable Health Care Act, which he compares to health care in Great Britain or Canada. It has little in common with the health care systems of those countries. He believes in a fantasy called the FAir Tax.

But black men and women gave their lives in the civil rights movement so black folk like Herman Cain come applaud those rightwing principles if they chose. He is a wealthy businessman — and the more wealthy black businessfolk there are, the more black Republicans there are likely to be.
Besides, Cain was no more a ‘minstrel” than any of the other speakers who came before a rightwing audience trying to tell them what they wanted to hear.

On Wednesday, I wrote about Cain’s flirtation with a presidential campaign:

WASHINGTON — Herman Cain received no ringing endorsement for a presidential bid here last week, when he spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of hyper-conservatives. In the ritual straw poll of delegates, Cain received only two percent of the vote — clustered near the bottom of a list of 15 possible contenders.

That’s not the only suggestion that conservative activists would greet a Cain presidential bid — should he decide to run — as a wealthy man’s folly. At National Review Online, a must-read for inside-the-Beltway conservatives, writer Jonah Goldberg dismissed Cain’s chances in December. “. . .it’s hard to imagine him amounting to more than an exciting also-ran,” Goldberg wrote.

Indeed, Cain himself is given to joking about his prospects. A black businessman, radio talk show host and motivational speaker, he likes to refer to himself  as “a dark horse.” He’s never held elective office; he came in a distant second to Johnny Isakson in a 2004 bid for the GOP Senate nomination.

Still, Cain, an Atlanta native and Morehouse grad, has spent a long career challenging the odds. He says that his Web site, set up for his presidential campaign exploratory committee, has drawn volunteers in the tens of thousands. Affluent donors are also ready to support him, he told me last week.

As for CPAC, Cain has at least moved up a bit in the pecking order. Last year, he said, he was given an 8 a.m. speaking slot, when very few delegates filled chairs in the main ballroom. On Friday, he had a 4 p.m. speaking slot and received, at a few points, enthusiastic applause.

But he used his time to give a very un-candidate-like speech — full of slogans and platitudes but lacking substance. It was the very opposite of that given by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose speech laid out substantive points of policy — he would replace the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, with an “environmental solutions agency,” he said — as well as the standard Obama-bashing rhetoric.

Still, as Cain would likely point out, Gingrich, who has a national profile, didn’t do much better with the delegates, polling only 5 percent. In an e-mail, a Cain spokesman said:  “Mr. Cain came out ahead of other potential contenders such as Haley Barbour, John Thune and Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, all seasoned Republican leaders.”

So, will Cain run? A spokesman said he is “a few months” away from making an announcement. There’s no hurry since none of the 15 potential candidates in the straw poll has formally declared a candidacy.

If he launches a bid, he will have to give up the considerable income he draws from the corporate boards on which he serves: Hallmark, Whirlpool and Agco — a Duluth, Minn.-based manufacturer of agricultural equipment. (He has already suspended his radio talk show, which aired on AM 750 WSB.)

But he actually has little to lose. A presidential bid would  raise his profile — and likely increase potential income from speaking fees. He clearly enjoys the attention he receives as the rare black ultra-conservative who commands the respect of newly-empowered tea party activists.

Cain came to national attention in 1994, when, as the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, he challenged then-president Bill Clinton about his health care proposals in a televised forum. Shortly thereafter, Cain was elected board chairman of the National Restaurant Association, an organization which dedicated itself to beating back what would have been “ClintonCare.” That makes Cain a go-to guy for conservatives who want an experienced businessman to denounce the Affordable Health Care Act.

In addition to tea party bona fides, Cain has the ambition of a man with a new lease on life, having survived State 4 colon cancer.

“I only had a 30 percent chance of being here talking to you today,” he told me last week. “God said, ‘Not yet.’ . That was one of those defining moments that got me to (this) point today.”

That point is a hair’s-breadth from a presidential campaign.

— Cynthia Tucker

365 comments Add your comment

Kamchak

February 17th, 2011
3:17 pm

He believes in a fantasy called the FAir Tax.

There’s your sign.

Kamchak

February 17th, 2011
3:25 pm

And as a dedication to Good Grief — FIRST!

Kamchak's gerbil

February 17th, 2011
3:26 pm

Kammy – what does there’s your sign mean?

Jeff

February 17th, 2011
3:29 pm

Disagree, when you are actively fighting against the rights of people you are an Uncle Tom if you’re African American. Especially since we, and our ancestors know how defeating it can be to have an entire civilization treat you as a second, no THIRD class citizen. They are more than welcome to their views on economics(Their are Blue dog Dems), but their views on poor people, women, and gays are dangerous and feckless. They do the things they do to me because their self-loathing, and it’s not like “Black Conservatives” don’t do their share of dangerous rhetoric, personally I think being called an Uncle Tom is easier than being threatened with gun violence because of some economic issues of health care.

Jeff

February 17th, 2011
3:31 pm

..not only that but being called an Uncle Tom is fitting once one thinks of what the CivilRights Movement was really about. Economic and Social equality..it’s not justified to be African American a primary beneficiary of the Civil Rights Movement to deny those same rights and equal treatments to others.

Sandman053

February 17th, 2011
3:33 pm

pretty good ideas I think. I’ll vote for him.

ctucker

February 17th, 2011
3:38 pm

Jeff@3:29, There is nothing about Herman Cain that strikes me as “self-loathing.” Self-interested, perhaps. Self-loathing, no.

Tommy Maddox

February 17th, 2011
3:38 pm

There goes the Left – “Look! A successful black business man! He’s a Republican!! String him up!!!”

Hypocrites.

Kamchak

February 17th, 2011
3:38 pm

pretty good ideas I think. I’ll vote for him.

Don’t think he will survive the primary process, so you had better have a “plan B.”

NL2ATL

February 17th, 2011
3:39 pm

@Kamchak’s gerbil:

Since we’re from GA that might just be your Jeff Foxworthy reference ;)

Kamchak

February 17th, 2011
3:41 pm

There goes the Left – “Look! A successful black business man! He’s a Republican!! String him up!!!”

I’m part of “the Left.”

Please show me where I have ever advocated that.

Thanks in advance.

Tommy Maddox

February 17th, 2011
3:44 pm

It’s not coming from the Right – and since the right has been labeled in a broad swath as “racist” notwithstanding any iota of proof thereto, it figures when someone on the Left lets their own brand fly.

Generalizations are bothersome, eh?

False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR)

February 17th, 2011
3:46 pm

I agree DeVega may have been out of bounds CT. However, Cain seems a better entertainer than potential presidential candidate. I mean, seriously?? The guy simply lacks real credibility.

I could no longer stand to hear the sound of his voice at some point in 2008 when he fervently insisted, on a near-daily basis, that the US economy was SOUND, and that we were definately NOT in recession. Remember that mantra? This despite all the foreclosures, bank failures, layoffs, pitiful stockmarket performance, etc. He carried the GOP water instead of appealing to his own presumed common (or so-called business) sense. I guess he’s chasing after the Palin/Bachmann/Alan West crowd. More power to him.

Not at the Trough

February 17th, 2011
3:47 pm

Herman Cain was a successful businessman, and I have heard him many times. A judicious thinker. I would vote for him, but doubt if he could win. The novelty of having a black president appears to have worn off.

Kamchak

February 17th, 2011
3:47 pm

The ol’ “well Tommy did it too” defense?

Doesn’t work on the playground, doesn’t work with adults.

I always figured you were better than that.

Oh well, live and learn.

Class of '98

February 17th, 2011
3:49 pm

I love him. Would vote for him in a heartbeat. GO HERMAN!!

ctucker

February 17th, 2011
3:50 pm

FEAR@3:46, Yes, Cain is a good entertainer. That’s why he has a radio talk show. Good ideas for the presidency? probably not

granny godzilla

February 17th, 2011
3:54 pm

No matter who said it or nasty stuff like it –

It is way over the top and cheapens the debate.

Really disgusted

February 17th, 2011
3:57 pm

I sure hope I’m not considered a regular!

Racism on the left? Never!

February 17th, 2011
4:02 pm

Unfortunately, eventually you’ll have to realize that the average leftie is just as, if not more, racist than the average rightie. Righties can be honest about it, but lefties have to lie so they can keep their automatic black vote. If the average black person knew what the average Democrat politician thought of them, the Dems would never win another election again.

If it weren’t for black conservatives like Herman Cain to allow the lefties to get their racism on, they would probably explode from holding it in for so long.

It’s like the north/south thing. The north likes to keep up this idea that they are more tolerant than the south, but when it comes down to it, in my experience northerners are just as racist, if not more so, then southerners.

San Francisco… So tolerant, right? But they also price most black people out of being able to live there. When there’s hardly any black people around, it’s easy to be all tolerant. But shove a San Franciscan in Atlanta, and you will see someone with a really bad attitude, unlike white people that grew up in more diverse areas.

Mike K.

February 17th, 2011
4:05 pm

For once, I think Cynthia’s right. I don’t know anything about Cain, but it’s wrong for prominent blacks of the left to call blacks of a conservative mindset Uncle Toms, minstrels, or race traitors. As Cynthia points out, that is the essence of racism.

Kamchak

February 17th, 2011
4:05 pm

I sure hope I’m not considered a regular!

You wish to be irregular?

There are various over-the-counter remedies for that.

Joe Cool

February 17th, 2011
4:09 pm

“If the average black person knew what the average Democrat politician thought of them, ”

Is that You Gov. Deal?

carlosgvv

February 17th, 2011
4:09 pm

There was a time in America when virtually all African-Americans were Democrats. That there are now an increasing number of Republican African-Americans is a good and healthy thing. It breaks the old racist notion that all Blacks think alike. I have to question what the real motives of both blacks and whites are who critize and African-Americans being conservatives.

JF McNamara

February 17th, 2011
4:09 pm

It was clearly out of bounds. As far as being a President, that is clearly a No. I think he just wants to use the Sarah Palin route to fame.

JF McNamara

February 17th, 2011
4:12 pm

Carlos,

If Republicans would drop the racial bent, there would be a lot more Republicans. I might switch completely if I didn’t have to deal with the Birther, Confederate Flag crowd…but alas, they aren’t going anywhere.

Black Conservative

February 17th, 2011
4:18 pm

Hi C.T.

Just because a black person does not follow in lock-step with liberals or Democrats, does not make him/her an Unk Tom. An Unk Tom supports the racial views and policies of the oppressor in spite of Unk Tom’s own people out of ignorance. My problem with Cain is that he refuses to meet and network with other blacks who are successful in business and life. He isolates himself to white conservatives only and this is what make him an easy target for the Unk Tom label. He feels he is superior to other blacks because he is the ole “spec in the buttermilk.”

Joe Cool

February 17th, 2011
4:18 pm

“If Republicans would drop the racial bent, there would be a lot more Republicans.”

So True, The Thing That Hurts Republicans, Is That The Racial Bent Is Part Of Their Base And Most Minorities Do Not Want Any Association With Any “Group” Where Racism Is A Part Of Their Base.

Douglas

February 17th, 2011
4:23 pm

Carlos stated: “There was a time in America when virtually all African-Americans were Democrats”.

In the last election the democrat Obama got around 95% of the black vote. Is that the time in history you were speaking of?

Tommy Maddox

February 17th, 2011
4:25 pm

No Kam – I’m not accusing you of that stuff and please don’t take that as such. I’m don’t like labeling either but these fools who think they can get away with this kind of crap just because they are black are the penultimate in hypocrisy.

One Nation Under educated

February 17th, 2011
4:26 pm

ohhh yeah, i get it – minstrel – yeah thats a dog whistle

i feel you, man. I’m a native american accountant.
…you wouldn’t belieeeve….

Joe Cool

February 17th, 2011
4:28 pm

“In the last election the democrat Obama got around 95% of the black vote.”

And? So Did Clinton, Gore………………

“What Your Point Is”…lol

Dick Hertz

February 17th, 2011
4:30 pm

Certainly that is some hyperbole from some random blogger, hoisted to prominence by Dave Weigel, Libertarian apologist and fellow traveler. But is it really racist, or is it making a fair historical comparison perhaps colored with the aforementioned hyperbole? Considering that the forces allied in the current right wing coalition includes the former Dixiecrat bund, the Conservative Citizens Councils as have come up with Haley Barbour, and a variety of other colorful characters whose racism is colored more or less by the gentility of their class, could the comparison be accurate in its description? I could see how one could consider Cain as either the cartoon described in the article or as the camel’s nose under the tent, were one of a different political persuasion.
And I would suggest that there is a substantial contrast between the state sponsored, legally enforced racism that was the subject of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, and the day to day biases and prejudices of everyday people alone and in concert. A key contrast is that the law can be changed with the stroke of a pen; everyday prejudice must be overcome a person at a time and will take generations. The South isn’t special for having racism in its history to the present; it is special for having made that racism a key feature of how it presents itself and how life is conducted.
I look forward to the day that we can dislike a man not for the color of his skin, but for his regressive and backwards political and social opinions.

Black Conservative

February 17th, 2011
4:30 pm

Well stated Joe Cool. Though I am a convservative, I do not identify myself as a republican. Too many republicans have to toe the racial line to prove their “street cred” with the racists.

Douglas

February 17th, 2011
4:33 pm

Joe Cool my point is(and your post supports it) that virtually all African-Americans were/are Democrats. lol

ctucker

February 17th, 2011
4:38 pm

DickHertz@4:30, You wrote:”I look forward to the day that we can dislike a man not for the color of his skin, but for his regressive and backwards political and social opinions.”
I believe that day has arrived. And, yes, I believe the blogger relies upon the same notion — that black people should or do think alike — that racists did. I don’t think Cain is a “cartoon.” Over the top showman? Absolutely. That’s why he has a radio talk show.

Black Conservative

February 17th, 2011
4:38 pm

I dare any Republican (or Democrat) in office to to make this statement: “If you are a racists, white supremist, black nationalist, do not vote for me….I do not want your vote.”

Joe Cool

February 17th, 2011
4:42 pm

“Too many republicans have to toe the racial line to prove their “street cred” with the racists.”

Indeed! Personally, I’m More Fiscally Conversative, but More Socially Liberal, Yet At the Same Time That “street-cred” Mentallity Goes In Any Field Whether Politics, Business, Etc. Its The Cater To The Masses or Majority Or Whatever Will Help You Get Votes Or Whatever You’re Seeking.

Case And Point…..I Heard Bortz This AM, Call Out Bohner For Not Putting His Foot Down On That Whole “Birther/Muslim” Obama Mess! He Knew Bohner Likes To Leave That False Notion In The Base’s Mind.

Black Conservative

February 17th, 2011
4:45 pm

My man Joe!!!

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 17th, 2011
4:47 pm

Dear CT, Thank you for the opening statement. For the longest time black conservatives – Thomas Sowell, Walter E Williams, Clarence Thomas – have suffered the vilest racial slurs of any contemporary person of color (witness the Common Cause rally Feb 5.) Until black folk are free to think for themselves, without suffering racial ad hominems for their beliefs, black folk will not be emancipated.

In a perverse sense, the failure of our current president is evidence of racial progress in this country. The economic disaster languishing under his administration is blessedly not attributed to pigment in his skin, but to a triumph of his political ideology over conservative economics. (I know you were trying to keep this blog apolitical, and I should have honored your intention, but I thought my harsh judgment harmonious to your larger point today.)

Kamchak

February 17th, 2011
4:52 pm

OH NOES! IT’S THE AD HOMINEM CARD!

God Bless America... and no one else

February 17th, 2011
5:00 pm

I know Herman Cain personally, and supported his Senate campaign financially and by volunteering. He’s a great deal more than “an over the top showman”. He’sa guy who went to college while supporting a family, moved up the corporate ladder in three huge food and beverage conglomerates, and epitomizes what the beneficiaries of the Civil Rights movement should be – a responsible, well-educated Black Man successful in his professional endeavors who is taking part in the mainstream political process at a high level.

The harsh judgements from the Left are unjstified, knee-jerk reactions that speak more to their racism (as defined as a preconcieved idea based on a person’s race) than they do anything about the Right.

ctucker

February 17th, 2011
5:04 pm

TommyMaddow@4:25, You are trying me. Watch your crude language or be banned.

0311/0317 -1811/1801

February 17th, 2011
5:06 pm

I always seriously thought that the first African-American president would have to be at least a moderate Republican to have a chance.

Boy was I wrong and now we are paying for it.

If you ask me, Herman Cain is too good for the White House as the Office of the Presidency has been tarnished so much by both Republican and Democrat presidents.

Just sayin’

ctucker

February 17th, 2011
5:06 pm

God Bless@5p.m., I pointed out Cain’s business creds in my column.

God Bless America... and no one else

February 17th, 2011
5:09 pm

Didn’t mean you this time, CT. I meant all the dingbats he dealt with in 04, and those like the blogger you reference today…… as well as some of your posters.

DW

February 17th, 2011
5:18 pm

I STRONGLY agree that blacks should be able to afiliate themselves with whatever party they choose. I CANNOT understand why it would be republican. Unless you are old, white, rich, and christian.. they are doing NOTHING for you.

Auburn fan

February 17th, 2011
5:20 pm

I like Mr. Cain and think he would make an excellent president. It would be very interesting to take race completely out of the equation if both the candidates were black. Maybe then people would really look at the issues and not make it a beauty pageant.

Auburn fan

February 17th, 2011
5:21 pm

Hey DW, what have the Democrats ever done for you? Absolutely NOTHING!

carlosgvv

February 17th, 2011
5:22 pm

Douglas

I was talking of a time years ago when it would have been next to impossible to find a black conservative. If the far-right hold on the Republican party can be broken, you will find there are many moderate black voters.