Herman Cain just may represent the greatest threat to the viability of the Democratic Party since the 1960s. The reason why is simple:
Because he is black. And he's a Republican.
Worse yet: he could be remembered as the successful second black president who immediately followed the failures of the first. With such a legacy, he just might create a new wave of open-minded voters within the black community.
Such a wave would carry truly dangerous implications for the Democratic party.
For the past 40 years, Democrats could more or less take the African-American vote for granted. Paradoxically, many of these minority voters are not fully invested in the standard liberal agenda that the Democrats have come to represent. This is particularly true amongst those within the minority demographic who are middle class and church going.
Such members of the black community tend to not be too keen on homosexuality, are critical of abortion, value the presence of God, and are concerned about a cultural war on Christ. These African-Americans desire a return to values whereby young men pull up their pants, fathers are present for their children, and that one takes responsibility for one's life. The Pew Research Center describes such voters as New Coalition or Hard-Pressed Democrats, and make up the majority of the minority wing of the Democratic Party.
The issue of race has habitually guided the vote of such centrist African-Americans, despite an alignment more in tune with social conservatism. Under the popularized notion that Democrats best represent minority interests, their minds have been generally closed to the idea of voting Republican. It is among such anti-republicans that Herman Cain describes as "brain-washed," given that much of their news diet resides in traditional media.
Obama received 95% of the black vote in 2008. At present however, his approval among blacks is at an historic low of 58%. Among the disillusioned, some might turn to Herman Cain as a potential redeemer to the "historical narrative" of the nation's first minority presidents. Doubtlessly, Democrats would still consume the majority of black turnout. With Cain however, a record number of the demographic would (for the first time in many of their lives) vote Republican.
That's when they begin to see the contrast. And where the possibility for long-term democratic damage begins.
Obama, as our first black president, has governed from a hard-left stance that has put liberalism on full display. Never before has the failure of big government been more prevalent to the American people, with 75% of the people agreeing that the nation is on the wrong track.
Assume Cain takes the presidency. With a reputation a "problem solver," presume he succeeds everywhere Obama (and to an extent, Bush) has failed. He delivers on restored fiscal sanity, sensible yet sensitive reforms to entitlements, and above all else, jobs. An ideologue and communicator of the same cloth and quality as Ronald Reagan, presume he's remembered just as well; as a president that oversaw the return of "Morning in America."
Under this premise, such contrast between the first and second black presidents would deeply resonate within the African American community, enough to possibly shift voting patterns permanently. Under eight long years of a Cain success story, future Democrats may one day discover that they control the black vote only to the extent that they control the Hispanic vote.
The consequences to the Democratic base would be disastrous.
"[In 2004]...the strongest Democratic groups are African Americans, non-Christian whites, and New Minorities" writes Earl Black, a professor of political science at Rice University. "No other group matched African Americans in the magnitude of partisan advantage. Among black voters there was a 71-point gap in party bases."
Since 1972, blacks have voted for the Democratic candidate for president at an average of 86.6%, with a deviation of only 4.1 points. Compare to the Latino vote, by which only 62.8% of the demographic is cemented within the Democratic Party at a much higher deviation of 6 points.
Democrats rely on a contestable, though solid majority of Hispanic support. Without the edge provided by a veritable monopoly on African-Americans, however, the party could have long found itself without the numbers to win elections.
Herman Cain possesses the greatest threat to this monopoly in 50 years. Electorally, the Democratic Party is already a half-sinking ship due to the actions of the Obama Administration. The policies enacted in this presidency have already resulted in the loss of Independents, and embarrassing stronghold defeats that includes New Jersey, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and New York.
If history determines that the long-term political consequences of the Obama Administration equated to a new open-mindedness among blacks thanks to the ascension of Herman Cain, such a blow could prove to be the final death knell of the Democrat Party as we know it.