A real gem from Huffington Post:
During an interview that aired on CNN's "The Situation Room" on Wednesday night, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain suggested that members of the African American community "have been brainwashed into not being open-minded, not even considering a conservative point of view."
“Open-minded” is an interesting way to put it. Cain seems to be saying the Republican Party is doing everything it can to ally itself with minorities, if only said minorities wouldn’t be so prejudiced. OK, then.
I suspect that wholesale black rejection of the GOP has less to do with open-mindedness and more with the fact that the party has absolutely nothing to offer blacks or any other minority.
The prevailing conservative line is that racism is over, and that anyone who insists otherwise is using it as a crutch or as an excuse. Allegations of racist undertones to the tea party, for example, result in the playing of the race card card. (That’s not a typo. The race card is itself a card, used to deflect the issue in the same way that its players accuse others of deflection.) Whatever racism does manifest itself, Cain and his ideological brethren say, comes not from racist people or policy, but from those who complain about it. It’s those people, they insist, who are stalling true racial reform in this country.
The idea that racism is finished in America allows for a convenient ancillary truth: that everyone is now equipped with identical bootstraps, and thus we have no more need for affirmative action, many social programs and other forms of assistance upon which minorities often rely. At least, that would be the case if they could just convince embattled minorities that racial inequality truly is over. And that’s where the tough love comes in.
Conservatives profess that the best way you help someone is to not help them. That’s most obvious in their oft-repeated assertions that Democrats want to coddle the poor with more welfare, that social programs are a hammock for the lazy, that affirmative action sacrifices competence and merit for forced diversity. Cain et al. see the U.S. safety net (and government in general) as a drug that kills ambition, and that it’s incumbent upon them to provide the cold turkey that will help the addicts come around.
(This tough love never applies to the wealthy, because tax cuts and lax regulations are the only things keeping their ever-flagging motivation intact. But that’s apples and oranges, apparently.)
Trivializing racial issues also means Republicans can run a black man with virtually no cultural or ideological difference from his white counterparts, and trumpet that as embracing diversity. And “trumpet” is the correct word, because we’re reminded of it at every juncture. Like most non-white-male Republicans, Herman Cain is an ironic, shining example of the party’s own racial claims at work. In 2008, critics often blasted supporters of Barack Obama for liking him just because he was black. As I said then, if that were the case, then we would have had President Jesse Jackson back in 1984. A lot was made of Obama being our first black president, but that’s inevitable because it’s so visible. But Obama won over Hillary Clinton and John McCain because he brought so much more to the table: he is a riveting speaker, balances idealism and experience and possesses the intangibles we look for in a world leader in a time of crisis. He was what the electorate wanted, a competent candidate.
Cain, as with Sarah Palin before him, is someone we’re supposed to support because of what he is, not necessarily who he is. Both were cases of the GOP saying, “See? We have candidates who look like that too!”
Once Obama had won the nomination in 2008, one Wisconsin GOP spot attempted to lure female primary voters to vote for McCain-Palin. The idea behind the ad was that if you like Hillary, you’ll like Sarah too. Because, like Hillary, she’s also a woman. And you are a woman. Which, of course, totally misses the point. People weren’t voting for Hillary Clinton because they thought it would be nifty for a woman to be in the Oval Office; they supported her because she’s a dynamic, experienced political figure. The same cannot be said for either Palin or Cain.
If you strip away Cain’s race, there isn’t a whole lot to recommend him as a presidential front-runner. And yet, many of the same people who grumbled that Obama was only the junior senator of Illinois are excited about a man who has considerably less political experience. Because he is a black man in a party that knows it has a seriously negative race perception.
I’m not saying Herman Cain doesn’t have what it takes to run for office — in fact, I think he does, even if I don’t care for his platform. But I am saying that his rapid ascendance to the presidential field is proof that race can still be relevant for all the wrong reasons.
Only a closed-minded person would fall for such a ruse.