Yes, it is true: Black conservatives get blasted from all sides. It’s a hard knock life. However, this is the least of Herman Cain’s problems.
Let’s be honest: for the most part, Black conservatives catch hell in politics, social life and media, especially from the larger Black community. Current GOP front-runner Herman Cain has been a previous victim of this, surely based on the onslaught of name-calling within the blogosphere that he has endured since his entry into the GOP presidential nomination race. And yes: this accepted denigration of valued Black contributors based on political affiliation is nothing new, particularly over the past several years.
From Dave Chappelle’s racial draft (where two of America’s top geopolitical minds were “given away by Blacks” because of their Republican status) to Michael Steele’s infamous Oreo cookie incident years before becoming RNC chair, the one-off treatment of Black conservatives has found a niche of acceptability within American mainstream thought.
And, while we’re at it, let’s be honest about this as well: there is a clear double standard between how Black conservatives are treated in the media and how they are treated by Black America. It is visible compared to most notable Black liberals. For every one time that you hear the dreaded term attached to Rev. Al Sharpton or Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. (a word which, by the way, would always result in me hanging up on callers to my radio show), there are at least 10 times as many incidents where Black conservatives have to prove their Blackness (and/or moral fiber) to America. The burden of proof regarding motives, the need to explain policies and positions, and the requirement of solidity with working class Americans (and the Black America collective) falls on Black conservatives in an unparalleled way. Black conservatives are thought to be a lost cause that cannot relate to Black America or, worse still, contravenes the best interests of Black people, even in the best of times. During a controversy, Black Republicans are guilty before being proven of anything other than being Black and part of a political minority.
Therefore, it is pretty easy for Ann Coulter and others to pile on in saying that Herman Cain is under attack in a high-tech lynching because, frankly, the precedent established in America over the past 20 years shows that it is likely. Just the same, it is easy for folks to pile on or rail against the defense of Herman Cain and other Black conservatives () because, frankly, precedent calls for that as well.
Never mind that Cain’s fundraising numbers have spiked since the allegations hit the news because, frankly, when the conservative grassroots feel under attack by the mainstream media, they are going to support their candidate in force. That applies more so after a few years of media attention concerning alleged incidents over the 2010 health care bill and isolated cases of racism at Tea Party events being billed as staples of their movement – rather than the fringes of it. It happens with Congressman Allen West. It is now happening with Cain.
Precedents aside, though: the attention around Cain and his responses to the allegations is not about Black conservatism or double standards. It is about his increasingly-disturbing trend of double talk.
Although politics and sex will always elicit attention (especially when it involves the highest levels of government, this media blitz is more of a crescendo effect that has built up over the course of the Cain campaign. Verbal missteps by Mr. Cain and his campaign have led voters to weed through his explanations after double-talking on Muslims. Potential voters have watched Mr. Cain double-talk on important issues such as negotiating with terrorists, only to up the ante with contradictions (and confusing potential followers) with his stance on abortion. Now, the man at the top of most GOP primary polls finds himself caught in a web of indistinctness as this sexual harassment scandal continues to threaten his campaign. Many are taking this as a pattern of deception instead of a mode of ineffective campaigning and community, even if deceit is not his intent.
Previous incidents of having to clear up his positions after apparent contradictions should have provided plenty of opportunities for this campaign to prepare for any “October surprises” that might spring up along the way to Tampa. Instead, they’ve been more focused on the attention gained from unusual campaign ads that were meant to be trailblazing, only to – once again – double-talk when confronted with contradictions and conflict. Now, the Cain campaign has to hope that this negative tide washes away – and very quickly. Tragically, the controversy has grown because Mr. Cain has ignored a simple axiom that applies for presidential candidates and Black conservatives equally so: in an era of double standards and double looks from the media and others, one must double their efforts to get it right.
Lenny McAllister is a political commentator found Saturdays with host TJ Holmes and fellow pundit Maria Cardona on “CNN Saturday Morning” at 10:30 AM Eastern (9:30 Central / 7:30 AM Pacific.)