Republicans by the boxcar load adore him. You know what that means if you're a certain kind of Democrat, and the "him" in question is Herman Cain.
It means Cain lovers -- even or perhaps especially, folks in Dixie, who might have lynched him 80 or 90 years ago for his uppity ways -- are playing a dark, devious game. They're using a black man to: 1) show how non-racist they are, 2) stick a thumb in Barack Obama's eye, or 3) control the candidate, like in the old, old days.
The latter absurdity came to general attention a few days back when one Karen Finney, an erstwhile spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, alleged on MSNBC that white backers of Cain see him "as a black man who knows his place."
Sigh. If it weren't race, it would be something else for us to yack about, given the electric nature of this country's political animosities. That's to say, Americans no longer like or trust each other and also find fun and profit in saying so. Color being a self-evident, dividing point, it would be odd if politicians and political commentators, in quest of something to talk about, didn't divide over the question of Herman Cain's demonstrated appeal.
Conservative whites who latch onto Cain draw the scorn of liberals, of any race or color, who profess to smell a rat. What these people's refined nostrils fail to sense is the civil rights movement's triumph of logic.
The old-time Dixie demagogues -- Gene Talmadge, Cotton Ed Smith, Theo Bilbo, etc. -- with the aid and comfort of Northerners who weren't high on black rights either, failed to explain a vital point. Possibly, this was because they never tried. The point was the barren stupidity of suppressing talent and ability, by whomsoever exhibited it -- Herman Cain, for instance.
To see such a point, one didn't have to talk about "constitutional rights," though such a topic was of the essence. One had only to ask, what are we trying to do here? Are we trying to guarantee that no matter how able a black author, scientist, businessman -- or politician -- might be, no matter the size of his potential contribution to American life that we don't care and to hell with him or her?
The suppression, by common consent, of constitutional rights is no light thing. No lighter, or smarter, is the offense of stepping on ability, talent and the possibility of contributing to the betterment of daily life. That was the point that rarely came out in the pre-Herman Cain days, when a Cain couldn't have offered himself for the presidency because, well, you know, he was the wrong color. Whatever his gifts, he couldn't compete for our political affections.
Out at this juncture, must come mention of reservations I myself harbor about a potential President Cain. The candidate we elected president three years ago on a try-out basis, with little to go on but his own self-adulation doesn't make some of us eager to make a similar mistake in 2012.
Nonetheless, that's not the present point. The present point is: Hey, stop! Instead of diminishing Herman Cain as a comfort blanket for white racists, may we not acknowledge that in his case the system has worked? Are we not entitled to celebrate the emergence of a black presidential candidate who wins the sincere affection of conservative whites? Aren't we lifted up a little by a sight unthinkable in the segregated America of 50 or 60 years ago? Isn't a Herman Cain surge in the Republicans party sort of the political equivalent of a Jackie Robinson homerun for the Dodgers?
What will come of the foofaraw over newly floated and strenuously denied allegations against him for sexual harassment? We can't know yet. One thing we know: Herman Cain, businessman, patriot and optimist, has gone a ways toward clearing out the smog of racial animosity. If the smog persists, at least it won't be his fault.
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