Republicans and Black Candidates

Do Republicans like Herman Cain because he's black?

A prominent liberalish blogger reacts on Google Reader to Herman Cain’s relatively strong showing in the latest polls, “I hate to say this, but I really do think some Republicans like Cain because he’s black and they think that will help him against Obama.”

While I don’t think it’s that calculating, there’s a longstanding tradition of young white Republicans becoming infatuated with black conservatives. Herman Cain is just the latest in a long line of them. Off the top of my head, there’s J.C. Watt, Alan Keyes, Michael Steele,  Allen West, Condi Rice, and Lynn Swann. And that’s just political candidates. On the pundit side, there’s Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Shelby Steele, Walter Williams,  Armstrong Williams, and Ken Hamblin.

If I were to psychoanalyze it, I’d say part of it is that pointing to blacks who share their views validates their positions as being motivated by ideology and policy rather than race.

Would an obscure failed Senate candidate best known as the former CEO of the 7th largest pizza chain in the United States be given any credence as a presidential contender if he were white? It’s hard to see it. But, frankly, I’d be more willing to take my chances with him than half a dozen of the non-black candidates being given serious attention.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Race and Politics, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Only a liberal weenie would view Cain in terms of skin color.

  2. legion says:

    A theory like that could be tested by watching Republican support of an openly, flamboyantly gay conservative candidate…

    Make your own jokes, people…

  3. PJ says:

    A prominent liberalish blogger reacts on Google Reader to Herman Cain’s relatively strong showing in the latest polls, “I hate to say this, but I really do think some Republicans like Cain because he’s black and they think that will help him against Obama.”

    Which blogger?

  4. Jay Tea says:

    I think it’s worth noting that all the black conservatives James cited, I believe, have had some measure of success away from electoral politics — but in fields where they actually had to achieve things and show measurable results. And they all are strong individualists, with strong wills and personalities.

    And they don’t seem overly excited to be recognized as black, preferring to be more noted for the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

    Funny how that type tends to gravitate more towards one party than the other…

    J.

  5. TG Chicago says:

    It’s odd not to name this mysterious blogger you quote. Also, do you mean Alan Keyes, not Alan Reyes?

    Isn’t part of the appeal of Cain the disagreement he had with Bill Clinton during the 90s attempt at healthcare reform?

    Anyway, I don’t see him going far in the primary, and I don’t really see him getting the VP slot (though it’s possible). But I’d bet he gets a prime speaking spot at the convention and a Fox News gig.

  6. Kylopod says:

    >Only a liberal weenie would view Cain in terms of skin color.

    Then one prime example of a liberal weenie is Cain himself:

    “I’m an American Black Conservative – an ABC — and I’m proud of it,” Cain said…. Cain then went on to say he thought liberals were upset with him “because I won’t stay on the Democrat plantation like I’m supposed to…. It may shock you but some black people can think for themselves.”

    Yep, not only loudly proclaims his race but even invents a cute nickname for being a black conservative, and then compares the vast majority of African Americans to slaves. Sure sounds colorblind to me.

  7. legion says:

    Kylopod,
    Yep, not only loudly proclaims his race but even invents a cute nickname for being a black conservative, and then compares the vast majority of African Americans to slaves.

    To quote an earlier commenter, it’s funny how that type of person tends to gravitate more towards one party…

  8. James Joyner says:

    @PJ and @TG Chicago: It wasn’t a public forum but a limited-audience one. Absent something truly heinous, I wouldn’t attach a name to it outside that confines.

    @TG Chicago: Yes, Alan Keyes. Typo corrected.

  9. Gustopher says:

    If Herman Cain did get the nomination, I wonder whether the racist vote would just stay home…

    @Patrick T. McGuire: Only a fool would suggest that Cain’s race is irrelevant. Race colors everything in America.

  10. JKB says:

    @Gustopher –

    Race colors everything in America.

    For Liberals, that is true. They are still obsessing over Obama’s.

    Well, for me, I noticed Cain by what he said in the debate. I noticed because he was the only one willing to be bold and direct. He still is. The favored candidates still aren’t willing to speak directly to the needs of the country. Cain may be the best candidate unless someone steps up. In any case, I expect he will be able to force the DC Republicans to movement to help the US instead of their Combine.

  11. An Interested Party says:

    For Liberals, that is true. They are still obsessing over Obama’s.

    Ummm, yeah, sure…it is liberals who have attacked the president in every way possible as the mysterious, foreign, scary other, everything but calling him a ni@@er…yeah, it’s the liberals obsessing over race…as for Cain…I wonder how many other sideshow attractions you’ve fallen for…

  12. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    @Patrick T. McGuire: Only a fool would suggest that Cain’s race is irrelevant. Race colors everything in America.

    Not in my America.

  13. wr says:

    Right, Patrick. I’m sure some of your best friends are blacks and Jews.

  14. mattb says:

    Excluding the idiots who buy into the “only the other side practices identity politics” line (especially pushed by right wing talk radio), it’s fair to say that both sides of the aisles (democrat/republican and conservative/liberal) are keenly aware of race — at least initially.

    There’s no question that Obama’s race was important to dems and progressives — though at the same time it should be noted that it has not ever been enough to insulate him from criticism.

    Likewise a candidate like Cain, or a justice like Thomas, or a woman like Palin… they all come to often act as the “great hope” for Republican’s and Conservatives: proof that they are as “color blind” as they promise to be. But typically, proving that color blindness requires a constant reference back to that person’s race (i.e. he’s Black, but I voted for him anyway — see I’m not racist).

  15. mattb says:

    BTW, I should also say that in general, while racially framed, I don’t think “He’s X but I voted for him anyway” is an intentionally racist statement. In fact, I think it’s a fundamentally “conservative” one (I vote for the person, not their race, sexuality, etc.). But that doesn’t make it any less ironic.