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