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Mr. Herman Cain: the new Clarence Thomas?


Usually, I do not write articles on obvious subjects. Because of the recent flap about mysterious sexual harassment charges, Herman Cain will more than likely be discussed in several parts of this week’s Our Weekly. But, politically, Black folks cannot afford to look at most subjects one dimensionally.

In logic and in politics, there is usually much more than meets the eye. Adopting the habit of second sight in politics is a good thing for those Americans who are relentlessly under the gun, swimming in hostile waters no matter the change in climate along the multiple shore lines.

Cain will not be the Republican national nominee. First, at bottom, although able to carry off clever masks and misdirections with aplomb, the current Republican Party is just too racist for that. The party already has a mantra of “Let’s take our country back” and that does not mean another Black man for president.

Second, the major analysts in the Republican Party know Cain cannot beat Obama in a national election. This country will still vote in the majority for the younger, better looking version of two not-my-first-choice candidates.

For those really hoping we are at least a little bit post-racial and envisioning two Black men running for the United States presidency, looks like heaven, let me pull your coat a tug or two.

Maybe one day, but not yet. All other things being status quo, White folks in general will still make the same choice they made in Los Angeles when Hahn and Villaraigosa first squared off for the mayoralty. They will tend to vote, as they did, for the White candidate they really did not like or want, rather than for the better-looking, more politically connected, and actually more qualified Mexican American candidate.

That was the Valley vote (the one that counts the most in citywide elections). The second time around, that tribal connection to Hahn had completely evaporated, as he had literally rubbed the failed Valley cityhood vote in their faces. The I-don’t-like-you-but-I-can-put-up-with-you stance had turned to political hatred, and Villaraigosa waltzed in that second time.

The point here is that there are political trends that rarely change, and Cain will crash into one of them before the end of the February primaries. He will be an also-ran by then, if not before, and you can take that to the political bank.

That won’t necessarily be a good thing, and it certainly won’t be the fair thing–just real politics in America. But, by the way, unless there is truly a monster of a nasty story buried underneath the confidentiality agreement signed by the two women who accused Cain of impropriety, that won’t be his downfall issue. It will chink his armor, however, and reveal his political Achilles heel. Just stay tuned.

The main point of this article, though, is that Cain is actually a better candidate for president of the United States than most of us give him credit for, and simply looking at him as another Clarence Thomas may be a rush to judgment that shows a real lack of political sophistication in how we participate in this process.

Yes, certainly the conservatives will rally around him, as they already have, and pound many desks in outrage against the media’s ‘new high-tech lynching ‘ for raising the sexual harassment issue; they will praise his oversimplified (and even dangerous) 9-9-9 economic advocacy, and they will laud his adherence to Tea Party principles.

By the way, the Tea Party loyalists certainly embrace his early candidacy a lot more warmly than they do Romney’s–Cain can mouth off the Tea Party talking points like a pro. That won’t last, however. And our looking at him only through the prism of the Tea Party is not politically wise.

Cain is a walking Horatio Alger demonstration. His father was a chauffeur and his mother was a career maid. He worked himself into several top positions in three really distinct industries before he was 35 years old, including the computer arena, banking, and rocket science. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a master’s in computer science, worked on building ballistic missiles for the U.S. Navy, became a systems analyst for Coca-Cola, a vice president of corporate data systems for Pillsbury products, and was assigned as the chief problem-solver for Pillsbury’s 400 Burger King restaurants in greater Philadelphia.

In the latter position, he took the poorest performing stores and turned them to the best-performing stores within three years. He also became, shortly thereafter, the CEO of Pillsbury’s Godfather Pizza, and in 1988, bought the franchise from Pillsbury, became a millionaire from that venture, and became the first Black head of the National Restaurant Association.

He later became a consultant to the U.S. Federal Reserve System, and eventually rose to become one of the small handful–and only Black man–in the position of the chair of the Kansas Federal Reserve Bank, one spot down from the head of the entire national system. He also had training in developing state and national monetary policy.

He is now a motivational speaker, an author (“Speak as a Leader,” “CEO of Self,” “Leadership is Common Sense,” and “They Think You’re Stupid”) and a radio host on Atlanta’s biggest radio station. As a self-man ‘renaissance man,’ he has certainly excelled in a diversity of areas. That’s the self-confidence we see displayed on a regular basis in the debates and in interviews. Cain has an impressive set of statistics to his credit.

When he falls just short of his current presidential ambitions, he will be a very sought after speaker and lecturer. He will command Les Brown-Sarah Palin money, and probably make a lot more sense than the latter. What’s important to note, however, is that the man’s no slouch.

Whatever the ultimate fate of his presidential run, we must be mindful that the Black community is sending Black men of substance into the political fray for this top job.

Regardless of our agreement or disagreement with his politics, we must salute his merits and achievements. I’m sure we’ll hear his voice and see his face on Fox and other places long after this particular campaign. That’s a political fact we will have to pay attention to and learn from.


Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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