Now that Herman Cain has become a frontrunner for the Republican nomination, his character and ideology bears stronger scrutiny. So far, none of it is standing up well.
Over the last week or so, Cain has accused African-Americans of being “brainwashed” to support the Democratic Party. He also claimed that homosexuality is a choice and asked to see the science suggesting otherwise. He then charged that the protesters on Wall Street who were unemployed and not rich had only themselves to blame.
It isn’t often that a candidate comes along who begins bashing voting constituencies wildly. In the short run, that strategy might garner support among a minority of far-right conservatives. In the long run, Cain risks permanently alienating moderates who are critical to becoming elected.
That Cain chose to place sexual orientation solely as a choice is not surprising. Far worse accusations have been thrown at gays and lesbians. Most of the Republicans running for President have made gay-bashing part of their platform. They are not seeking nor expect the support of gays. It is easy to pass of Cain’s words as part of that agenda.
However, when Cain insults African-Americans as behaving like mindless zombies marching to pull the Democratic lever at the polling booth, he alienates a significant voting group that Republicans have courted for years. As a black American himself, Cain should be able to make some inroads at drawing African-American support. That is going to be a bit harder with this sweeping, derogatory accusation.
As a former CEO of a large corporation, Godfather’s Pizza, it is also not surprising that Cain aligns with Wall Street against the protesters. His criticism of the protesters is sweeping to the degree that it encompasses all the unemployed in the country. In these economic times, that is nearly 10% of Americans. There is no doubt that Cain has worked hard over his lifetime, and that is attributable to his success. Nevertheless, hard work does not make one rich. If that was the case, agricultural workers, janitors and the like should be millionaires. The unemployment rate didn’t jump from 4% a few years back to 9% simply because 5% of Americans decided to stop working. They lost their jobs, and jobs are hard to come by. Someone can’t be employed by simply wishing it. There aren’t enough jobs out there for everyone at this time.
Add all this together and there is a certain anti-politician appeal to Cain that is resonating with some GOP voters, particularly the Tea Party. That makes sense since Cain has never held political office. He may have caught lightning in a bottle with his unconventional approach, but that may not be enough to secure the Republican presidential nomination. Lightning flashes across the horizon and is gone. The same may happen to Cain. Even if Cain remains a top contender, it is hard to imagine how Cain’s agenda of blame, denigrate and ridicule can translate into an electoral majority.
Most politicians try to express empathy to voters and feel their pain. Herman Cain seems to care less.