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Herman Cain Plays The Race Card

No doubt weary from a week in the media spotlight Herman Cain and his supporters are starting to insinuate that he is being unfairly attacked because he is a black conservative. The best example of that push back comes in a new web-ad from a pro-Cain SuperPac:

An emotionally charged and slickly produced new video obtained by ABC News from the group Americans for Herman Cain portrays the sexual harassment story as a racially motivated effort to destroy Herman Cain.

The video ends with the Clarence Thomas’s closing statement at his 1991 confirmation hearing: “This is a circus. It is a national disgrace. It is a high tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves . It is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order you will be lynched, destroyed caricatured rather than hung from a tree.”

As Thomas speaks, the video superimposes the words “Don’t let the LEFT do it again.”

Here’s the ad itself:

Cain himself said pretty much the same thing earlier this week on Fox News Channel:

KRAUTHAMMER:  Mr. Cain, when Clarence Thomas was near to achieving position of high authority, he was hit with a sexual harassment charge.

You, contending for presidency nomination, the office of highest authority, leading in the polls for the Republican nomination, all of a sudden get hit with a sexual harassment charge.  Do you think that race, being a strong black conservative, has anything to do with the fact you’ve been so charged?  And if so, do you have any evidence to support that?

CAIN:  I believe the answer is yes, but we do not have any evidence to support it.  But because I am unconventional candidate running an unconventional campaign and achieving some unexpected unconventional results in terms of my, the poll, we believe that, yes, there are some people who are Democrats, liberals, who do not want to see me win the nomination.  And there could be some people on the right who don’t want to see me because I’m not the, quote/unquote, “establishment candidate.”  No evidence.

KRAUTHAMMER:  But does race have any part of that?  Establishment, maverick, yes.  What about race?

CAIN:  Relative to the left I believe race is a bigger driving factor. I don’t think it’s a driving factor on the right.  This is just based upon our speculation.

These are familiar themes you hear from the right of course. Rush Limbaugh does it all the time, even as he uses subtext and innuendo to stoke racial fires. Ann Coulter is quite skilled at it as well, as her recent column “Our Blacks Are Better Than Their Blacks” demonstrates quite aptly. It’s really an absurd charge when you get right down to it. Herman Cain isn’t being “attacked” because he’s a black conservative, he’s a first-time candidate for President who has never held public office and now a front runner for the Republican nomination who is now being subjected to public scrutiny for the first time. There’s a lot about Herman Cain that the public doesn’t know, all of which is potentially relevant to what kind of President he would be. Moreover, he has advocated a number of bizarre things since declaring his candidacy, and has displayed an appalling level of ignorance regarding foreign policy. He’d be getting this same treatment if he was white, black, male, or female.

Of course, given the multiple versions of reality that modern conservatives have convinced themselves of, invoking race quickly becomes a journey into a logical neverland:

Assume the mindset of a Rush Limbaugh listener. You like Herman Cain. For weeks, you’ve heard on the radio about how he’s a successful businessman, how unlike liberals he hates it when people play the race card. Last you heard the show, Rush was explaining how the liberal media is targeting him because he’s black. Another hi-tech lynching, just like Clarence Thomas, is the explanation you got.

The next day you’re on the web. Cain himself says that although he can’t prove it, racism probably played a role in whoever spread these stories about him. Damn those dirty liberals, you think. Of course, you might not vote for Cain. You’re undecided. You like that Rick Perry too. Like that he is the governor of Texas, that he has experience creating jobs. You couldn’t believe it when the liberal media accused him of being racist just for hunting near a rock with a racial epithet on it. Just as long as Mitt Romney doesn’t win the nomination, you think, or that RINO Jon Huntsman.

But what’s this? Herman Cain says Rick Perry is behind the sexual harassment story? Wait a second. So Cain thinks the story was motivated by racism, and that Perry is the one who leaked it? Is Cain calling Perry a racist? That’s something a liberal would do. Or did Perry leak the story? That’s something you’d expect from a no good liberal too. Who is to be believed anymore?

Paul Waldman sums up the current conservative position on race quite nicely:

1. The primary victims of racism are white people.

2. The most vicious form of racism is when a white person is falsely accused of being a racist.

3. On rare occasions, a black person can be a victim of racism, but this only occurs when a prominent black conservative is criticized for, well, for pretty much anything. In that case, the criticism can only be motivated by the racism that liberals feel in their hearts, unlike conservatives, who all believe in the equality of all people.

What this episode highlights is how positively obsessed with race some on the right are. Limbaugh is a perfect example: He manages to find a racial subtext behind almost any policy of the Obama administration. For instance, he told his listeners over and over again that the Affordable Care Act was “reparations,” Barack Obama’s cruel plan to screw over white people as vengeance for the racial sins of the past. And when it turns out that multiple women have accused Herman Cain of inappropriate behavior — a fact that he has acknowledged, whether you think the accusations are true or not — and news organizations report on that fact, it just must be a racist conspiracy.

The reason for that is very simple. For people like Limbaugh race is a perfect way to put forward the myth that the American right is a victim of some massively unfair conspiracy perpetrated by the rest of society. It’s a way to create a bizarrely self-centered group identity, and it’s pathetic. Herman Cain started out this campaign saying that he was rejecting what he called the “racial politics” of the left. Now, that’s exactly what he’s engaging in and he’s got the Limbaugh’s and the Coulter’s of the world playing right  along with him. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. sam says:

    He ought to be ashamed of himself.

    I’ll bet if he does get the nomination, a theme of the his presidential campaign will be, “Obama’s mean to me because I’m blacker than he is.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  2. Curtis says:

    Well, he was never getting the nomination before, so I think we are safe from Sam’s hypothetical.

    The right has benefited from the popularity and influence of the talk radio and Fox News. This is the price they have to pay for playing along when one hopes they have known from years just how disconnected from reality that group has been.

    The scarier thought is that they haven’t known.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  3. michael reynolds says:

    What a wimp. Think of what Bill and Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush and Obama endured. One little bump in the road and Cain cracks.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 4

  4. MBunge says:

    “He’d be getting this same treatment if he was white, black, male, or female.”

    That’s not entirely true. George W. Bush, for example, never got the going over from the Beltway media that Howard Dean did. The same Politico that thinks Cain’s possible history of sexual harassment was extremely important thought Dick Cheney’s possible history of war crimes was not worth mentioning. Cain’s race may not be a factor here, but his not being a duly anointed member of The Village certainly is.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  5. Hey Norm says:

    Earlier this week it was Perry who was behind the sudden appearance of a 12 year old story. Now it’s because of racism. Next week???

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  6. jan says:

    It’s to Cain’s discredit that he took that route.

    However, for many minorities it seems to be ‘a road frequently traveled.’ Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif is also doing it, as have others in the House of Representatives, such as Maxine Waters, who have leaned in that direction.

    Pulling the race card is an easy way to distract from other issues. FWIW, Condi Rice counseled Cain to forgo such a play.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  7. mantis says:

    Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif is also doing it, as have others in the House of Representatives, such as Maxine Waters, who have leaned in that direction.

    Neither of whom will ever be president. By the way, two examples of House members does not equal “many minorities.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  8. jan says:

    If I’m reading this story correctly, it appears that the NRA permitted the woman, accusing Cain of sexual harassment, to breach her confidentially agreement. However, instead, she decided to give a vague statement referencing this incident, through her attorney, preferring to shield her identity by giving any more publicity to the matter.

    ??????????????????????????

    So, why did she come forward in the first place? If you’re going to make a worthy claim against someone, isn’t the risk of public exposure all part of the process to insure this claim has credibility and legs to disarm a sexual predator?

    IMO, this kind of reticence raises legitimate doubts as to the validity of her charges, placing the reasons for it’s original disclosure closer to being more of a political ploy than arguably a viable act of inappropriate conduct by Cain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  9. jan says:

    @mantis:

    By the way, two examples of House members does not equal “many minorities.”

    If you read the AP link, as of 2010, there are 12 AA members out of 33 House members, in total, who are under investigation by the House Ethics Committee. I’ve read earlier articles indicating the race card was a component of their responses to the charges against them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

  10. mantis says:

    I’ve read earlier articles indicating the race card was a component of their responses to the charges against them.

    A claim for which you provide no support.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  11. jan says:

    @mantis:

    A claim for which you provide no support.

    You don’t disappoint, Mantis, as that is your usual default response, sending someone into the archives to dig up a link. And, then when they do, you will dispute the source as being illegitimate, by your standards. It’s a typical ruse…..

    In the meantime, read the AP ‘source,’ as that is the one linked, and numerically cites the numbers going though ethics review.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  12. James in LA says:

    Sex scandals aside, alleged or no, the man is not fit for office, and his campaign manager has likely created a very large legal problem for him.

    Calling Dr. Perry….Dr. Newt….Dr. ……. Hunstman?

    But not Dr. Romney. Never, that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  13. mantis says:

    that is your usual default response, sending someone into the archives to dig up a link. And, then when they do, you will dispute the source as being illegitimate, by your standards.

    Ok, if that’s so typical of me, why don’t you offer an example of my doing so. I’ll wait.

    In the meantime, read the AP ‘source,’ as that is the one linked, and numerically cites the numbers going though ethics review.

    You’ll notice I don’t dispute those numbers, and they have no bearing on the argument we’re having. Nice attempt, though.

    If you’re going to make a claim, you should be able to back it up. The fact that you refuse to do so only reflects your own lack of credibility. And it’s something you frequently do, as other commenters here can attest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  14. Ron Beasley says:

    Excellent Post Doug, I think you got it right. See I don’t always attack you!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  15. anjin-san says:

    Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif is also doing it, as have others in the House of Representatives, such as Maxine Waters, who have leaned in that direction.

    “Mom, the other kids did it too!!”

    One of the real go-to excuses of “principled conservatives” for unprincipled actions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  16. Eric Florack says:

    It’s really an absurd charge when you get right down to it.

    Does that mean when liberals charge that the opposition to Obama is because he’s a black guy, that such a charge is also absurd?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 9

  17. anjin-san says:

    If you’re going to make a claim, you should be able to back it up

    Oh Lord mantis, that is funny. This is Jan we are talking about.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  18. anjin-san says:

    Hey bit, still waiting for you to prove lenders were told “make loans to people who can’t pay them back or we will put you in jail”…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  19. An Interested Party says:

    This charge is deliciously rich coming from the fellow travelers of the same people who were all too happy to make the most ridiculous charges against the President, many of which were drenched in race (Birthers, “Kenyan, anti-colonial worldview”, etc.)…it is also just another in a long, long, long, line of incidents in which certain conservatives scream “VICTIM!!!!!” at the top of their lungs… truly pathetic…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  20. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Alas, I don’t suppose Cain’s mindless supporters will be able even to grasp the irony.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  21. anjin-san says:

    anti-colonial worldview

    My very favorite, seeing is how America would not exist without an anti-colonial worldview…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  22. Tano says:

    @jan:

    So, why did she come forward in the first place?

    She did not come forward in the first place. A story was written about the fact this all happened years ago. She was not the source of that story.

    If you’re going to make a worthy claim against someone, isn’t the risk of public exposure all part of the process to insure this claim has credibility and legs to disarm a sexual predator?

    Are you saying she should not have complained to her superiors at work in the first place unless she was willing to become a public figure?? Are you crazy?

    IMO, this kind of reticence raises legitimate doubt…

    What a pathetic spin job…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  23. Tano says:

    Interesting how a hard right politician handles his first taste of criticism.

    First cry Raaaaacism! Then file a frivolous lawsuit.

    Can’t make this stuff up!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  24. G.A.Phillips says:

    Interesting how a hard right politician handles his first taste of criticism.

    ? You mean innuendo and presupposition.

    He ought to be ashamed of himself

    lol…

    What a bunch of crap…..

    So Doug.
    I can see many of the other reasons that you don’t like Cain, and understand them. This new line of attack is just sad.

    The BLACK lady who called the Limbaugh show had it dead on. She said the liberals go beyond their worldview to try to destroy Cain because he ran away from their plantation.

    It is BLACK AND WHITE!!!

    Cain is running a campaign of historic proportions and your repeating made up judgements of liberals…..

    I know you are on the left side of the world view equation but come on bro don’t run with the fabricated. I like to read the stuff you write but this is getting crazy. A little worse then your Palin days I think.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

  25. Pug says:

    I’m sure most blacks just love the “plantation” references continually coming from white conservatives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  26. Pug says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Obama is not just Kenyan, but a Mau Mau. Don’t forget that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  27. G.A.Phillips says:

    I’m sure most blacks just love the “plantation” references continually coming from white conservatives.

    Whats the point? you mean that they are brainwashed not to know that it was the Dems that owned the originals and that the Libs are running the plantation of the mind and soul?

    You don’t even understand that you fit the liberal racist plantation guard mold by the words you speak do you?

    Oh, and I was using the words and meaning of A BLACK FEMALE CONSERVATIVE!

    It is remarkable how extremely clueless most of you libs are.
    I am done fooling and jokeing around, I will now go back to crushing and killing and destorying your crap!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  28. sam says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    “I am done fooling and jokeing around, I will now go back to crushing and killing and destorying your crap!”

    .45 caliber mouth, .22 caliber brain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  29. Jay says:

    I agree with the article, but FYI Doug, there have been some Far Left racial attacks on Cain and his right-wing supporters. These attacks haven’t been repeated by mainstream liberals, but they are out there. Hopefully the mainstream Libs won’t stoop to Cain’s level on this matter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. Tano says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Your problem GA, is that you are emotionally driven to castigate your political opponents, and that seems to get in the way of actually thinking about the things you say.

    The plantation reference, as well as the “brainwashing” meme that Cain has used, as do so many conservatives, is deeply offensive and yes, racist. The fact that a few black people spout these lines does not change that fact.

    The claim that a huge group of people – we’re talking about 90% of a racially defined group, although they listen to the same politicians as the rest of us, they have radios and TVs that deliver the same programming that we see and hear, they read the same newspapers and magazines and blogs that we do – but they, unlike the rest of us, are unable to rationally assess this information and make intelligent choices for themselves – bur rather are “brainwashed” into supporting one party – how can you not realize that this is essentially a claim that they are intellectually incapable of participating in a democracy?

    Maybe you think that blacks should be denied the vote until such time as they demonstrate a willingness to vote for Republicans in higher numbers? For surely the ability of the voters to think rationally and independently is a core and necessary assumption for a democracy.

    Similarly with this “plantation” nonsense. You are accusing a group of people of being slaves because they refuse to be seduced by the charms of your political party. A group of people whose ancestors really were slaves, and who thus have some understanding of what the term means, beyond just a handy, and nasty insult to hurl at people.

    If you had any confidence in the virtues of your ideology, you would see its rejection by black people as a challange – a two part challange. First the recognition, growing out of a sense of respect, that maybe there are things that your ideology gets wrong. Secondly, there should be a realization on your part that maybe you and your allies are really incompetent at persuading people who are skeptical of your views that your views actually have merit.

    These realizations might lead you to engage constructively with the black community. Such a respectful engagement is the only path forward that has a chance at leading to day when Republicans actually do get more of the black vote.

    Nasty, cruel insults directed at the intelligence and integrity of black voters is hardly the way to proceed. Unless, (and this is what it really seems like is coming from people like you) you really don’t care about winning their votes, but rather see this disrespectful attitude toward blacks as part of your core political identity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  31. WR says:

    @G.A.Phillips: “Oh, and I was using the words and meaning of A BLACK FEMALE CONSERVATIVE!”

    Um, GA? You were listening to the RADIO. This person claiming to be a black female conservative could have been anyone. It could have been Bithead.

    Really, GA, just because you see faces when you listen to Rush doesn’t mean they’re really there…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  32. ponce says:

    I am done fooling and jokeing around, I will now go back to crushing and killing and destorying your crap!

    I do not think those words mean what you think they mean.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  33. MM says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    I will now go back to crushing and killing and destorying your crap!

    Internet toughness is a KIND of toughness.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    I am done fooling and jokeing around, I will now go back to crushing and killing and destorying your crap!

    I almost lost my lunch with all my quaking in fear…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. EMRVentures says:

    @G.A.Phillips: I’m not clear on what your stated purpose is here. Are you rededicating yourself to removing the story from liberalism, or did you misspell “destroying”?

    Also, “crushing and killing”? How is that done, exactly?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tano:

    Shorter Tano: GA, you are a racist ass.

    (I am not quite as nice, nor as eloquent, nor as full of free time to waste on GA)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. mantis says:

    My crap will not be destoried!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. mantis says:

    Shorter GA (and most of the right): Blacks should be Republicans, but are too damned stupid to know it.

    Fits on a bumper sticker!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  39. Eric Florack says:

    @anjin-san: I;d suggest you stop making a fool of yourself, but it’s so second nature to you I doubt you have that ability. But at the least you could bother to actually read the CRA, as modified by the Clintons and as enforced by Janet Reno, and get the answer. I say that because it’s quite clear you have not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  40. Eric Florack says:

    By the way, Gang, I suppose few have noticed this; Cain;s standing in the polls remains unaffected. Apparently, the public isn’t buying the smear attempt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  41. Janis Gore says:

    Fine, Eric. Select him. I’ll definitely get up off the couch to vote against him.

    I’m still trying to digest the notion of the son of God as a perfect conservative.

    If he’s a jackass to boot, well. I’ve known plenty of chauvinists who kick the ground and say, “What’d I do?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  42. Plantsmantx says:

    The BLACK lady who called the Limbaugh show had it dead on. She said the liberals go beyond their worldview to try to destroy Cain because he ran away from their plantation.

    He didn’t “run away from a plantation”- he ran to one. Black conservatives tend to be much more wedded to conservative orthodoxy than black liberals are to liberal orthodoxy. That makes him less of an “independent thinker” than most black liberals. You people can crow “Democrat plantation” all you want, but whether or not it persuades the mass of black people is where the rubber meets the road, and that’s not happening. Failing that, the “Democrat plantation” meme only works as rationalization for conservatives’ anti-black thoughts and feelings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  43. Plantsmantx says:

    Nasty, cruel insults directed at the intelligence and integrity of black voters is hardly the way to proceed. Unless, (and this is what it really seems like is coming from people like you) you really don’t care about winning their votes, but rather see this disrespectful attitude toward blacks as part of your core political identity.

    Yep, you figured it out. When they say “one of the good ones”, there’s a word that is left out, but is understood. That word is “few”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  44. An Interested Party says:

    It is hardly surprising that so many black people vote for Democrats rather than Republicans…

    So why don’t blacks vote Republican? The answer is simple. Black people are not crazy. Being not crazy, they understand a simple truth about conservatives: They have never stood with, or up for, black people. Never.

    Forget modern controversies like mass incarceration. Social conservatives, then based largely in the Democratic Party of the early to mid-20th century, opposed the Voting Rights Act. They opposed the Civil Rights Act. They opposed school integration. They opposed the Montgomery Bus Boycott. They opposed a law to crack down on lynching.

    These are the people for whom African-Americans are now supposed to vote? To make the argument is to betray a stunning contempt for the intelligence — and memory — of black voters.

    In talking about race, conservatives have all the moral authority of a pimp talking about women’s rights. Granted, “their” blacks might disagree.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  45. Drew says:

    Obama does not want to have to run against another black man because that would not enable Obama to play the race card in 2012 like he did against the Clintons back in 2008. The left is desperate to try to eliminate Cain by any means necessary. Does any reasonable person think that it is a coincidence that all of Cain accusers are from CHICAGO? Also the first anonymous accusers claimed Cain’s actions were nonsexual! Also they both are democrats who are connected to Obama. This last accuser is just a plain liar who is out for money. This is obvious. The fact that the first 2 got money is irrelevant since companies will pay small amounts to these people just to get the trouble makers out the door because it unfortunately if would cost them more to try the case in court. This is how Obama plays the game. Try to dig up dirt on opponents! That’s what he did in his senate race. That’s the Chicago way. Too bad it won’t work this time. It’s back firing on him. It’s like he’s handing Cain campaign money!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0