by Yvette Carnell
The fix is in. The sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain, and his ever-evolving rebuttals, are the beginning of the end for our campaigning songbird. For those of us who’ve been playing close attention, the great unraveling of Cain’s campaign was only a matter of time. His skirting of tough political questions, imprecise 9-9-9 plan, and lack of professional campaign staff all sealed his doom. And, assuming Rick Perry’s come down from his high by now, he’s sure to take advantage of the way in which Cain is mucking things up.
But the bigger question is, how’d Cain catapult to the front of the line when many establishment Republicans –including Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer – were not so quietly warning that Cain wasn’t anywhere near ready to head up the Republican ticket? How did a man who’d never won elected office (he had run and lost) get the green light to mount a presidential bid? The answer: Race.
This, of course, is nothing new. Both Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain are the beneficiaries of a particularly pernicious strain of affirmative action that serves the G.O.P.’s rhetorical position, their pawns, but not the country. The rendering of black people as the ornaments of diversity, rather than incarnations of it, is one of the essential reasons why blacks clash with conservatism. As a consequence of our past, we are a freedom loving people. In theory at least, we’ve got no problem with principled conservatism, but we do have a problem with being used. That is what we see when we watch Cain and Thomas jibber jab on about boot straps and “up from” characterizations of blackness.
Although it makes many black folks cringe, this brand of “do for yourself” blackness, which includes no critique of white racism, pays off in spades for black, and mostly lackluster, conservatives. Both Thomas and Cain were encouraged onto the prime time field of play by self-interested conservative factions long before they were ready, solely because of their currency as contrarian, not to be confused with competent, Negroes.
Cain may very well have been a competent, even exceptional, CEO, but whatever skills he accumulated in the business arena don’t translate well in the political arena. He’s charismatic, sure. But he’s been flying by the seat of his folksy pants for a while now, which was all well and good until he crashed head first into a concrete controversy. Meanwhile, Thomas sits on the highest court in the land and piggybacks on Justice Scalia’s logic, offering very little in the way of his own independent legal introspection.
So it just smacks of hypocrisy when Republicans are so unabashedly anti-affirmative action in their public policy, but are unwilling to eliminate the practice within their own ranks.
To say that blacks approve of affirmative action has never been the equivalent of saying we approve of substandard achievement. It’s not about getting a leg up, but getting the opportunity to do battle on a level playing field. To us, Obama is an achievement, not because he’s had a successful first term (I’m one of his most vocal detractors), but because he beat Hillary fair and square. Cain and Obama can’t play on that level, so the only question is -who left the gate open?