With any luck, we are counting down to a precious few the last days of Herman Cain. This huckster is coming to the end of his string of charm; the smiling salesman, non-politician politician act will only get you so far in this world. You do need to know a thing or two. Cain, like Clarence Thomas, has profited from the affirmative action culture he decries. Justice Thomas never thought he was being accepted for his own wonderful self. Why would he have been? He needed all sorts of help to get to Holy Cross and the same sort of help to get into Yale’s law school; and the help was there for his generation. But he’s repaid that help with great helpings of scorn and derision. And what has Thomas done of note during his twenty years on the Court, besides being the fifth vote majority for its conservative, right-wing decisions? He is only thwarted when the Court won’t go as far right as he wishes.
Cain’s adoption of Thomas’s troubles, his high-tech lynching rhetorical excuses (and who now thinks Thomas innocent of Anita Hill’s charges?), and Cain’s penchant for attracting serial sexual harassment complaints of employees and potential employees, links them both. When Gloria Allred is on the scene, standing next to some aggrieved bottle blonde, watch out. Her client’s resemblance to Gennifer Flowers is fate’s unique talent for irony on display yet again. But Cain’s feigned ignorance and forgetfulness about what he did and when he didn’t do it is more of his own particular brand of harassing the general public. There’s so much Cain doesn’t know and a lot of it is that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. It’s a sort of Donald Rumsfeld problem; the unknown unknowns of Herman Cain are legion. He gives the equally empty-headed Rick Perry a run for his money.
The current Republican primary process has been a debacle for the entire GOP. This isn’t the first time the primary period has played a critical role. A memorable one was the New York state Senate primary in 1992 on the Democratic side, one that allowed Alfonse D’Amato to have one last term. But destructive primaries are usually carried out on the local level; this is the first one that has been such a disaster on the national scene.
Debates usually have open audiences, and those were often seeded with supporters of the various candidates, but these Republican primary debates appear to have only the most partisan of audiences, which brings about the cheering for the death penalty, leaving the sick to die, and the boos directed toward gay soldiers and the even the mere question to Cain about “character” at the most recent debate on CNBC. This is new, too, and contributes another actor (the audience) to the circus clown show atmosphere.
Alan Keyes use to be the GOP’s carpet-bagging candidate, traveling most anywhere (even to Illinois to run against Barack Obama for Senate), playing the same role as does Cain, to show the “big tent” (pup tent) aspect of the Republican party. African-Americans who pop up in the GOP know they are working the less busy side of the street, where the road to advancement is quicker. Keyes was strange is a creepy way; charm eluded him. His initial connection to the GOP seemed to be the fact that he had been the roommate of Bill Kristol at Harvard, but Keyes was always willing to be the black face in Republican campaigns. He has since devolved down to being an anti-abortion agitator.
Cain is the other side of that GOP coin: the glad-hander, salesman, man of the people. He does not exude the rather too rarified semi-intellectual aura of Keyes. Keyes, like Cain, ran for offices as a business proposition. It didn’t cost him money; it increased his net worth. This duo is the comedy-tragedy face of the Republican party, A-A minority division. Keyes was always too weird to be comedy. I can’t remember him ever cracking a joke and I wrote a lot about him in my 1996 campaign book. He’s the tragic view of life. But Cain is comedy through and through (Princess Nancy!). I’m not sure Mitt Romney will be the last man standing after the GOP freak show primaries are done, but I’m pretty sure his veep pick won’t be coming from the other men and the one woman on the debate stages he’s been sharing.
And Barack Obama will be able to slide through to a second term, if those who voted for him the first time around manage to drag themselves to the voting booths in November of 2012, or, at least, a sufficient percentage of them – except for Bobby Rush, Obama has been exceedingly lucky in his opponents the Republicans have dealt him. But that’s a big if and remains to be seen.