by Obery M. Hendricks, Jr., Ph.D.
I’m not sure yet what to make of the sexual harassment charges against Herman Cain. If it is true that Cain used his position of authority to sexually harass subordinates, that raises real questions about his moral and ethical character that must be answered. Whether the allegations are true or not, however, even a casual perusal of Herman Cain’s public pronouncements reveals that he has a striking shallowness of mind and a woefully underdeveloped critical intellect that render him unable to fully fathom the complexities of social and political life in America.
For instance, early in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Cain loudly railed against what he portrayed as a major threat to America by Islamic Sharia jurisprudence, despite the impossibility of Sharia or any other foreign law code supplanting the U.S. Constitution. And this despite the further fact that Sharia Law has even failed to take hold in many Muslim countries. (Cain ceased his attacks after a little publicized meeting with Muslim clerics made it embarrassingly clear that he had no idea what he was talking about.)
Furthermore, judging by his claims that black Democrats are “brainwashed” because of their party affiliation, Cain seems unable to comprehend the easily comprehensible: that blacks’ preference for Democrats is almost certainly a response to years of Republicans’ coded appeals to white racial animosities (remember Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy” and Ronald Reagan’s mythical “welfare queens”?) and Republicans’ ongoing efforts to dismantle governmental programs and protections designed to level America’s social, educational and economic playing fields. In spite of unimpeachable statistical and other evidence that blacks still face substantial race-based challenges in America, Cain preaches a “see-no-hear-no-speak-no-(racial)-evil” approach to our nation’s struggle with racism that has little basis in fact and no basis in reality, yet is totally consistent with the right-wing’s continual attempts to obfuscate the racism that has always informed it.
Worse, Mr. Cain exhibits an astounding lack of knowledge about — of all things — America’s political landscape. Neo-conservatism is one of the most important political developments of the last several decades and now dominates the foreign policy perspective of his own political party, yet Herman Cain admitted on Meet the Press that he’d never heard of neo-conservatism. He also made the curious statement to the Christian Broadcasting Network that he would sign a constitutional amendment banning abortion “as soon as it came across my desk,” apparently unaware that presidents play no such role in the constitutional amendment process.
Such an appalling level of ignorance of the most basic social and political realities in Herman Cain or in anyone else with the ear of the public is dangerous for the half-truths, the untruths and the unhealthy social and political prescriptions they can purvey. But what is more dangerous, at least in Herman Cain’s case, is not what he does not know, but what he does know. And what he does know is how to make palatable for average Americans the economic agenda of a coterie of ultra-wealthy Americans who want to control whatever wealth in America — and whichever policy makers — they do not already own.
Today the chasm between America’s ultra-wealthy haves and its struggling have-nots is greater than at any other time in this nation’s history. Yet Herman Cain proposes to make the chasm even greater. Numerous reputable independent analysts, including Bloomberg Businessweek, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and Bruce Bartlett, a senior economic advisor to Ronald Reagan, have concluded that Cain’s “9-9-9” economic plan will tax the rich less while taxing the poor and middle-classes substantially more. In fact, the Tax Policy Center estimates that the only taxpayers who would actually receive savings under Cain’s plan are those with annual incomes of more than $200,000. Some analysts have concluded that if enacted into law, Cain’s 9-9-9 plan would result in the largest shift in tax burden from the wealthy to the non-wealthy that this nation has ever seen.
Unlike Cain’s ill-conceived social pronouncements, however, his economic plan represents not ignorance, but well-conceived intentionality. He plainly is aware of his plan’s profoundly economic elitist implications. Indeed, when at the Nevada Republican debate he was given the opportunity to walk back his infamous declaration that “if you are unemployed and not rich, it is your own fault,” he instead reiterated it.
No doubt it was for Cain’s willingness to publicly take such economically vicious positions that he was invited into the elitist right-wing fold of Charles and David Koch, the ultra-wealthy anti-tax zealots and bank rollers of the right-wing Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and various Tea Party activities, including the 2011 Wisconsin anti-union offensive and various voter suppression activities around the country. It is a fold that apparently Cain has never left. His campaign manager, his recently departed campaign spokesperson, even the “economist” who helped Cain contrive his 9-9-9 plan are all former AFP — thus presumably Koch-approved — operatives. And Cain is still engaging in the kind of combativeness disdainful elitist economic rhetoric he used as a primary AFP public spokesman at dozens of AFP rallies and events. In fact, while several other candidates will be at an Iowa Republican Party dinner later this week, Cain is scheduled to be in Washington, DC, at an AFP summit.
Herman Cain certainly is not the smartest or most able Republican candidate in this election. Then why has he excited such interest from ultra-wealthy conservatives and Republican fat-cats like the Koch brothers and those in their wealthy sphere of interest? It can only be because they believe he can seduce the non-rich masses of America to accept the interests of the very rich as their own. Think about it: who else but Herman Cain has given voice to their secret thoughts (“if you are unemployed and not rich, it is your own fault”) and not only not been widely attacked by everyday Americans for voicing the cold-hearted ideology of the callously rich, but actually cheered for it? Clearly, the ultra-wealthy supporters of Herman Cain are betting that his folksy, affable, up-by-your-own-bootstraps, hymn singing, seemingly well-informed, self-proclaimed “authentically black” racial counterweight to Barack Obama can deliver the power of the presidency into their clutches.
The real and present danger of Herman Cain is that they just might be right.