The Herman Cain collapse brings these ruminations to mind. Cain was never my label of joy juice, but many Americans, generally of conservative bent, were ready to award him the state fair blue ribbon.
What we learned about him, and about ourselves, amid the noise and clutter of a modern presidential campaign, was worthwhile. First, due to the candidate's missteps in debate (and possibly personal life) we recognized the clay feet below the pressed trousers. Better to find out now than later, surely? Second, the Cain phenomenon taught us a lot about the country's present mood and needs.
That many American conservatives wanted to embrace Herman Cain as savior is information of a vital sort. It speaks to anxieties in need of advertising. Let's start with the fear that the political class has betrayed us and needs help from people who have run a business.
An important piece of information brought to light by the Cain mutiny against the political quarterdeck is the essential color-blindness of people who want the best for their country. I mean, would we have seen anything like this in, say, 1968? I was there. I can tell you we wouldn't have. And this is great. The Obama candidacy showed that liberals -- or "progressives," as liberals now prefer to call themselves -- were ready to go with a black, or, more accurately, mixed-race candidate. So are oodles of conservatives -- but those people are viewed by progressives as yahoos and racists, quicker to use a black man than to follow him.
More information poured out as Cain campaigned. We learned the great political desiderata of the season are decisiveness and a sense of humor. The White House incumbent has neither, which is likely why Cain -- who sought to show how much he had of both qualities -- went over so big. Whether or not you see Cain leading America, you can effortlessly picture him getting large jobs done, not least by behaving in a genial and human fashion. The sheer stateliness of Barack Obama is getting a lot of people down at this point. You see him posing for his own marble statue as distinct from getting down -- because I don't know a better phrase for it -- with the people he purports to lead.