By PAT WATSON
By any professional measure, Herman Cain’s achievements would look like success. His résumé is impressive: business executive, syndicated columnist and radio host; president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association (1996-99); chairman and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza (1986-96); deputy chair (1992-94) and chair (1995-96) of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City; mathematician in ballistics, United States Navy.
For a Black man who lived under Jim Crow laws during his youth, the 65-year-old now campaigning to represent the Republican Party in the 2012 U.S. presidential election has, to all appearances, an impressive record.
Among the nine who have declared their intention to run for the Republicans, Cain has no previous political experience and that is showing. Whatever skills carried Cain to the top in the business world did not quite prepare him for entering the world of realpolitik. Whatever regard he built up during his business career is now being shredded in his pursuit of the highest political office in the U.S.
That he is a Black American adds to the twist in a country that still wrestles with its legacy of African enslavement and apartheid. We see how it’s being directed at the current U.S. President.
This is a time of desperation in America. Economic turmoil has been fertile ground for revolutionary actions by the left and the right in the forms of the Tea Party and now the Occupy movement. Desperation has also led to a line of off-the-wall personalities emerging from the Republican Party in their bid for the presidency. In that sense, Cain seems to fit right in. He is fast being transformed by the usual political machinations and media interpretation of his campaign into a less than stellar choice to knock of the Republican front-runner, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Some are now dismissing Cain as an idiot, or at least someone with no political savvy, given a string of gaffes, including apparently not having a clue about American policy on Libya in the past few months. Many Americans may not care much about U.S. foreign policy, but someone running for president must, of necessity, be informed.
The conclusion from many quarters is that the Cain camp did not anticipate that his campaign would take off as it has and they just don’t have the skills to handle the level of interest and scrutiny that has now thrust Cain into the spotlight.
But there is that other issue – race.
In the past two weeks, Cain has been accused of sexual impropriety, with allegations coming from four women, two who have publicly made statements. It would be hard to ignore the undertones that such allegations stir as they conflate with issues of race and racism in America. While Cain has been criticized for his handling of these allegations – “the American people deserve better than being tried in the court of public opinion,” he has said – his camp has not made enough of an attempt to be transparent in clearing up the allegations. Not least because the fine line between vetting candidate Cain and racism in this instance cannot be ignored.
The murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a White woman is an indelible mark that speaks of the kind of tension that is an undercurrent in the allegations against Cain. He has referred to it as a “high-tech lynching”. It was the same term used by now Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas when lawyer Anita Hill raised similar allegations against him when he was being vetted for the post.
The allegations now facing Cain have resulted in a dip in his polls, but it remains to be seen how much further he will be able to go with his campaign.
If Republicans’ apparent indifference to Romney plays out – and this is really a stretch of the imagination – we could surmise that if Cain goes all the way through the primaries, come next November no matter who wins, another Black man would be in the White House.
A note on clearing the park…
So, New York City police moved into Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan and removed Occupy Wall Street demonstrators’ tents. The protesters had been there for more than eight weeks to demonstrate their opposition to income inequality.
Authorities here in Toronto and in Calgary are also poised to remove Occupy camps. Certainly, the Occupiers will have already begun to formulate their next strategy.