A cautionary tale for Black conservatives: even if the allegations are not true (a big “if” to some at this point), Herman Cain’s responses to them are not winning over many Americans to his views or his leadership.
No, it’s not just in regards to the sexual allegations that Mr. Cain adamantly denied by way of a press conference in Arizona. Yes, that is plenty enough ‘splaining he will need to do, covering not just allegations that stretch from Chicago to Washington, DC, but as well for the hopes of supporters rooting for his candidacy.
There’s some “splainin’” that must come forth regarding other Cain issues yielding a not-too-complimentary image of the Cain Train, even if his momentum of support has maintained in many ways thus far.
For example, explain this: for a man who often notes he is the only non-politician running for the presidency on the Republican ticket, the amount of political hubris that Mr. Cain has shown over the course of two weeks reflects less of the grassroots affability (and perhaps even some sense of humility) that propelled him to straw poll wins starting in Florida two months ago.
Instead, it comes off with the same image of the proud, us-versus-them mentality that creates more enemies than friends – and apathy towards American politics. The stonewalling efforts fending off allegations of harassment have been criticized as damaging double-talk from Cain while the story grew, from differing stories on settlements to recollections about the details surrounding these allegations.
However, more damaging (and often less discussed) to Cain’s image is the arrogant manner in which he has denied the claims. During the infamous November 8th press conference from Arizona, Cain denied ever meeting one of the accusers just weeks after seeing the woman in a back-stage encounter in Chicago, then turned around and called the woman “troubled” and sent by Democrats to destroy his campaign. Doesn’t that plea, made by a master politician a decade ago, sound familiar?
Explanations fending off a firestorm have never been spoken more accusatorily by a career politician.
Yet, more damage to the folksy feel-good nature of the Cain Train was caused later in the week with his unnecessary ribbing of former Speaker of the House “Princess” Nancy Pelosi during the GOP debate in Michigan. He should have been more mindful of his slip in the polls (particularly with women) dropping him into a virtual tie with GOP presidential competitors Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. At the very least, he should be wary of condescendingly sexist, arrogant, or un-presidential comments.
This is not only threatening to his campaign, but risks squandering another opportunity for Black conservatives in American politics.
Instead of attacking the left consistently with facts and figures – as he so eloquently did when addressing President Clinton and the universal health care movement in the 1990s – Cain resorts to name-calling and insults. That may get applause from conservatives, but there are diminishing returns from the American electorate.
This mindset also led Cain repeatedly taking on the Occupy Wall Street protestors and the issues they raise (perhaps incorrectly at times) by stating they have themselves to blame if they are struggling in America during these economic woes. All while Cain quickly reminds Republican primary voters that these complaints are rooted in self-accountability deficiencies and Obama-led policies.
The self-accountability position plays well for Cain. It’s a stance dangerously misapplied in terms of race. Cain’s denouncement of the existence of racism in modern America – complete with comments about how White conservatives can’t fake liking him for this length of time and how his “flavor of the week” status made him “Black Walnut” - trivializes modern racial disparities and reflects the post-racism stands held by many Black conservatives.
Of course, this becomes colored with duplicity when many of the same people defend Cain against “high-tech lynchings.”
There is a clear explanation for both the recent Cain campaign faux pas and, perhaps, there is a bigger lesson here for Black conservatives in general: know your place.
I emphatically state that I am not referring to the backroom, mascot-level role that many Black Americans believe Black Republicans and conservatives play in today’s political climate. But, Black conservatives must win the war with facts, valor and statesmanship.
On his way to the top, Cain forgot what many Black conservatives forget when in the political arena: regardless of the detestable and inflammatory behavior of their political foes in, Black conservatives are not in a position to reciprocate.
At a time when leadership, poise, and balance are sorely needed, especially for Black American, Black conservatives are not afforded the leeway to come across as either stereotypical in their “patriotism” or arrogant and detached in their political delivery.
Black conservatives cannot claim Martin Luther King, Jr. as a Republican and ignore King’s sentiment on love driving out hate by taking on political adversaries with hateful and hurtful insinuations of brainwashing and work ethic concerning Black and liberal America. When it happens, Black conservatives risk further alienation and becoming mere tools of the right, not to mention being constantly scorned and ridiculed by the left.
Leadership is not pointing out the symptoms of the social epidemic. Leadership provides both the solutions and required patience needed for partnerships delivering people to a better place. Just the same, humble, servant leadership from Black conservatives at a time when Black support of President Obama has been waning for months cannot be curtailed by finger-waving, emotionally-charged rounds of bravado enacted in the process of making one’s point. Ironically, the same critique that many Black conservatives make concerning Black Democrats now epitomizes the very vices choking the moral momentum away from Black conservatism in general. From a more immediate perspective, it slows the Cain Train.
To get back on track, Mr. Cain, remember that leadership is a gift that comes like a liquid. Open and steady hands provide stability to capture and maintain leadership within one’s grasp. Arrogant pounding of fists or heavy-handedness allows leadership to slip through one’s fingers. Grasp this before it is too late. For Black conservatives in general, perhaps it is a lesson that we should heed as well before it is too late.
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.) His “Saturday Remix” can be found exclusively on Politic365before CNN Saturday Morning.