Mr. Cain Goes to Washington

Mr. Cain Goes to Washington


Herman Cain is the quintessential example of a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Political – but not the typical politician.  His mere presence in the race as a very successful businessman both concerned about the country and as a job creator vs. the typical political candidate is a testament to the present mood of the country.

But, the obvious question is: can he win? This is a rare political year where people aren’t “just looking for a new candidate” but, they are looking for the person who can present the best and most effective ideas. People are tired of the slick, gimmicky, typical games of politics.

But, why is he gaining steam now?  It’s a combination of the power of the media and grassroots. Cain has been on a national speaking tour at events sponsored by both political and non-political organizations for more than a year before he started running. There was already quite a large group of people who had expressed sincere interest in him as a candidate, but many people in mainstream political circles still weren’t really aware of who he was.

Now, with the combination of live political rallies, social networking sites, and primetime debates, everyday people have been provided with the opportunity to hear what he has to say. They are visiting his website, Googling him, buying his book, and hungry to hear more. People are looking for “something else”.

The 2008 campaign featured a lot of flash and idealism with very little substance.

In the present, we’re faced with an economy that’s stuck, impacting every area of American life from health care to education to social security to national security. When the economy is good, people are generally happy because of an improved quality of life. When it is down, they become frustrated and sometimes even depressed. The American people don’t want false hope anymore – they want to vote for someone they feel understands them and a fundamental grasp of numbers and the economy. Cain has that as a former CEO of several large corporations, and he didn’t inherit the fortune he earned from those jobs. He climbed his way there, so there’s a perception that he can relate to the common citizen.

That is, apparently, resonating. It’s not luck – or, quoting him from a recent CNN interview: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” If he can put together the type of organization that is needed on a presidential campaign scale in the early states, he can really put himself into serious contention, and he won’t just be a flash in the pan.

With that said, it’s not the candidate’s skin color which could potentially prompt many African Americans to endorse or support Cain. However, it’s not a bad feeling to see some sort of diversity on the GOP state, particularly an African American (or, “Black American” using Cain’s preference) and a woman. If the GOP wants to shake the criticism that it’s not the “party of old white men”, then it should make sure that it elects people who look like America. This does not mean that the GOP should select someone to run for office just because they are non-white or female, but it does mean that it should make a conscious effort to diversify its stable of elected officials. Most people want to be members of a party that looks like America. Elected officials are the public face of the party.  So, if all people see are White males representing the party in Congress, state legislatures, governorships, or the White House, they will draw a conclusion that maybe that party is only for White males. Perception is reality in politics.

Still, the truth of the matter is that Black people must force the two major political parties to compete for their votes.  That’s not happening – not in the same way they are, at this very moment, competing for Latino votes.

Just like Black people should remain active with the Democratic Party, they also need to take a look at the Republican Party, become active with it and start voting for Republican candidates. The Black community has voted, lopsidedly, between 88-90% for the Democratic Party in the past several generations of the modern era of politics.

That’s not smart political strategy.  It’s short term gratification with long term and devastating consequences.

African Americans are the first to complain about not getting enough attention from certain elected officials. The truth of the matter is, many Republicans think in some ways similar to Warren Beatty’s main character speaking before a Black church congregation in the movie Bulworth: “Why should I campaign to a community who will reject me as soon as I get to the front door because they believe that I am racist?”

Democrats, on the other hand, think: “Oh, I’ll just go to a few Black churches, make a few rousing speeches at some Boys and Girls Clubs, and glad-hand everyone in the crowd, and they’ll know that I’m a member of the party who likes people of color.”

We have to be real about it. Latinos, for example, are forcing Democrats and Republicans to compete for their vote because they have proven that they can break either way, and at best, the Republican Party can say: “Here’s a minority community where I might be able to get 30 or 40% of the vote or even possibly win it.” 

It is important to remember, however, that Black Americans are looking for solutions just like White Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and any other group. Thus, the best way to reach Black voters is to tone down inflammatory rhetoric and present solutions. Positivity–not negativity is the best way to win any voting bloc.