Liberals had a dim view of Herman Cain’s character long before this week. They automatically ascribed bad motives to him and to his GOP supporters. His political views couldn’t possibly be sincere, they pronounced. He is clearly pandering to racists. Democratic strategist Karen Finney summed this attitude up by saying: “One of the things about Herman Cain is, I think that he makes that white Republican base of the party feel okay, feel like they are not racist because they can like this guy. I think he is giving that base a free pass. And I think they like him because they think he’s a black man who knows his place.”
This is a rich charge, given that putting black conservatives in their place is one of the chief preoccupations of liberals. Holding black conservatives to a higher standard than others in public life is a form of discrimination liberals have perfected. They consider it very enlightened to ridicule black conservatives, call them vicious names, even wish for their speedy death. “I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early like many black men do of heart disease,” pundit Julianne Malveaux said about Clarence Thomas in the 1990s. “He is an absolutely reprehensible person.” Liberals didn’t expel Malveaux from polite society for this comment that might have even given David Duke pause. Instead, they feted her in academia. These days she is a college president at Bennett.
Regulating the blackness of black conservatives is the divine right of liberals. And so almost anything Cain says or does is fair game. A white liberal like MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell feels so empowered by this divine right that he can question the quality of Cain’s participation in the Civil Rights movement. Why, he badgered Cain a few weeks back, didn’t you do more to promote Civil Rights?
The exceedingly smug O’Donnell, however, couldn’t quite bring himself to demean Cain as “minstrelsy” and musical. For that task, he needed a black liberal and found one this week in the single-name fraud Touré, a peddler of quasi-intellectual mumbo jumbo and cheap shots that he regards as cutting-edge cultural criticism. Using the pretentious patter of a Henry Louis Gates, Touré unburdened himself of the deep insight that “I think that Cain, interestingly, does not exist without Obama preceding him.” Mortified by having to live under a smart black man like Obama, conservatives needed to “right the scales” with the elevation of a “lightweight” like Cain, said Touré.
Unable to contain his brilliance, Touré continued that there “is this constant minstrelsy aspect that he keeps bringing up. This is not something that we’re just making up out of whole cloth. He is the one who says he wants the Secret Service to call him Corn Bread. He is the one who says things like ‘oh, shucky ducky’ when he starts. This is deep black slang that he is using, that we have not seen on a national public stage before.” This sounds like a potential doctoral dissertation for Touré under Henry Gates — the troubling implications of “shucky ducky” in American politics.
Cain isn’t the first black man to run for the GOP nomination, though one might think so listening to this nonsense. In 2000, the Plato-quoting Alan Keyes ran for the GOP nomination. Where does he fit into Touré’s analysis? Toure didn’t mention him in his list of “serious intellectuals” who have run for president even as he numbered Colin Powell, who didn’t run for president, as one of them: “…Colin Powell, Jesse Jackson, Barack Obama, the blacks who are running for president have presented themselves as serious intellectuals…” Notice, by the way, that he includes Jesse Jackson on the list. Apparently Cain lacks the dignity, thoughtfulness, and moral probity of that former aspirant.
Black conservatives just can’t win. Whether they are “entertainers” like Cain or philosophers like Keyes, they are marked down as “wacky,” as Maureen Dowd described the two this week.
The left’s excitement over the sex harassment charges dogging Cain can’t be explained by moral philosophy, unless liberals plan to recant eight years of Clintonian apologetics. The same people who still whine about the “prurient” Ken Starr are now clamoring for the release of confidential files from twelve years back. The less actual sex involved in a scandal, the more interested liberals become in it, particularly if it taints a conservative and even better if it taints a black one. Clinton’s cavortings, fumblings, and passes in the Oval Office itself didn’t interest them. Those were a “private matter.” But the Cain charges have the potential to be disqualifying, they say.
Even if one were to put the worst possible construction on the charges, they would constitute a relatively moral day for Clinton. Nevertheless, Clinton’s boosters eagerly await the appearance of Cain’s accusers. They want their Anita Hill. They say that Cain is besmirching the good names of these women even though the public doesn’t know their names yet. The press is working hard to correct this injustice so that the names can be known and properly besmirched.
Perhaps Cain is lying and he did speak improperly to these women, though that would still fall well short of the Clinton standard. Remember, “competence” alone qualifies one for the presidency; crummy character doesn’t matter. Also, Clinton taught the nation that “lying ” about sex and alleged sexual harassment (Paula Jones) is no big deal. The press knew Clinton sexually harassed his way through Arkansas and didn’t care. A few female reporters, so grateful to him for protecting their right to abortion, indicated they wished to be harassed too.
Cain enjoys no such ideological immunity. He is an odious black conservative who threatens the left’s monopolistic hold on blacks. Also, he is some kind of pro-lifer, which means he is anti-woman from the start. Political figures are to be judged by the content of their ideology, decrees the left. The seriousness of a charge is determined by the rightness of a public figure’s political views. A Ted Kennedy was entitled to a mulligan or two after an unwelcome advance since he had done so much to help women already.
Not so with Cain. The left can’t rest until black conservatives are put in their place.