The rise of Herman Cain, both political anomaly and unconventional candidate, could have turned into another great post-civil rights legend plot ready for an HBO series. That a Black Republican candidate, no doubt, managed an unseen, who-would’ve-thunk-that and meteoric rise to election year glory is enough to promise several biographies and speculative political thrillers.
But, in the end, today’s announcement that he was “suspending” his campaign (a trite euphemism candidates use to engineer “graceful” exits) proved how undignified a show this had become in the first place.
And, before you go further – no. Not because Cain is a Black Republican conservative. That is to some degree irrelevant from the point here.
It’s the sheer silliness and tap-dance way in which he rose to the top. Unconventional, yeah, is cool. But, unconventional without a vision or any clear sense of next step is exactly what one Republican strategist called it: a “sitcom.” And, why did it have to be the Black man, the Black Republican that made it look more like an improbable scene out of Good Times? It wasn’t so much the sexual harassment charges or the allegations of an affair. It was after so many gimmick-ridden mentions of 9-9-9, or how he found comfort in a somewhat celebrated ignorance of foreign policy.
For a man that so much derided “brainwashed” Black people for hanging out on a “Democrat plantation,” he sure had fit in to a plantation of his own creation, a festive wonderland of ready-made stereotypes. The bumbling, testy and hardheaded Black man easy to both scorn and use as cultural play dolls. Minus a battered Celie in The Color Purple, Cain was becoming Mr.
And he did it in a Republican presidential primary – pretty much the last place we’d want him to do it.
Even the ending of the show was … well … a show. He couldn’t simply say “I’m done” and bow out, or just spare us the insipid madness of more TMZ gossip. Still, Cain actually managed the ending better than he managed the entire crisis – the dysfunction and disarray since speculation began that he might quit seemed oddly coordinated.
He had to be predictably defiant about it, crowd-testing the audience outside the fresh new Atlanta campaign headquarters that he’ll have to shut down. Poking around in his speech for call-and-response so he could figure out where his future will end up without Ginger White lurking around in it. He could’ve written a book about it. He could’ve been a political sensation worth studying. Now, he’s just blog fodder. And, he’s lucky if 20 years from now his name will even matter.