There, Princeton University Professor and public intellectual Cornel West launched a broadside against President Obama about apparent deficiencies in how the latter has attended to the political interests and needs of the black community--as well as the working classes and poor, more generally--during his first term in office. Predictably, the African American pundit class was up in arms and quickly chose sides. Some rallied to Cornel’s clarion call. Others took up the banner of President Barack Obama.
To my eyes, the beauty of this moment was how some of the big and perennial questions which surround black politics in the post-Civil Rights era (conversations that are often limited to barbershops, hair salons, living rooms, churches, and classrooms), were debated in public—and at least for a moment were central to the national conversation as we collectively negotiate just what Obama’s presidency means for the dynamics of race in America.
In total, the Cornel West versus President Obama fracas was a great example of the diversity in political thought among African Americans, and one more indicator for outsiders and the uninformed that black folk—like any other group—are not a hive mind that walks zombie-like to the beat of the same political drummer.
It is ironic then, that as a fitting footnote and coda to this conversation, that Herman Cain, self-described “American Black Conservative” and leading Tea Party GOP figure, announced at a rally held on Saturday that he would be running for the Republican nomination in the 2012 presidential election.
Staged in Herman Cain’s hometown of
, the political theater was indeed grand. Cain strutted to the stage before an almost uniformly White, Tea Party friendly audience. All eyes were glued to this charismatic figure, a black dot in a sea of white bodies, a man who is one part motivational speaker and two parts infomercial pitchman. Cain paused and took in the moment. Atlanta, Georgia
Staged in Herman Cain’s hometown of
History has indeed come full circle. In another century, not too long ago, this would be a scene more akin to a lynching. Where instead of strange fruit ready to be hung and harvested by a blood thirsty rabid crowd of white folks, Cain was greeted with cheers and love by throngs of his Tea Party GOP White Populist devotees. Then, he proceeded to make history: before a live crowd of many thousands, and a national TV audience of many more, Herman Cain channeled all of the energy of Tyler Perry (sans cross-dressing), Meet the Browns, Amos and Andy, as well as Steppin Fetchit, and in his well practiced faux “Southern Negro dialectic” inaugurated the “Awww Schucky Ducky” era of American politics.
When Herman Cain uttered that phrase at the two minute and forty four second mark of his speech, Dignity personified walked out of the room. In total, there are 40 million ways to be Black in
. And just as he did at the freak show carnivalesque Conservative Political Action Conference some months ago, in that moment Herman Cain chose to be a black buffoon for the joys and pleasures of White Conservatives. Sadly it is a script, that like many Black Conservatives before him, Cain knows all too well. America
How he chooses to perform his blackness—and do not be mistaken, it is a carefully mediated, honed, and polished routine that is precise in how it fulfills the fantasies of the White Conservative Soul and tickles the delights of the White gaze—is directly related to the grotesque policies that Cain, like many other Tea Party GOP candidates, endorse.
Herman Cain was a leading supporter of the Birther Movement. He wants to further encourage the growth of the corporatecracy and upward maldistribution of the wealth in this country. A self-professed bigot and Islamophobe, Herman Cain is also a religious zealot who in defiance of the Constitution—a document that Conservatives make into a fetish and magical totem—would implement tests of a person’s Judeo Christian faith in order to determine their qualification for public office. Slipping further into “conspiranoid” land, Cain also believes that the reproductive health services offered by Planned Parenthood are part of a genocidal plot to destroy the black family.
Like many Conservatives, he is also drunk on the fiction that cutting taxes and redistributing wealth to the rich will create prosperity for all. Like other Tea Party GOP candidates, a group wallowing in the toxic afterbirth of Reagan’s lie of trickle down economics and the Laffer curve, Cain wants to balance the federal budget on the backs of the poor and working classes through the implementation of a national sales tax and other regressive fiscal measures.
When looked at collectively, black conservatives in the mold of Herman Cain are upright walking human chaff for the most pernicious policies of the Right-wing and Conservatism in the
. In a perverse play on “the race card” and Conservative victimology, they provide both cover and a defense for charges that these policies are pernicious and harmful to the Common Good, as any critiques of said policies can be summarily dismissed by the Right-wing as “racist.” Ultimately, as I have suggested many times, if you kick over any of the rocks that are giving cover to some of the most extreme policies of the New Right Tea Party GOP in the Age of Obama, a black conservative is almost always uncovered. United States
For example, Herman Cain shills for the wrong side of history as he tries to vindicate the most extreme elements of social and political Conservatism. Clarence Thomas voted against a significant portion of the Voting Rights Act. Thomas also strongly supported the infamous Citizens United case, where he issued an opinion that lets corporations give unlimited secret monies to political candidates. Juan Williams is a snarling attack dog who cries the victim as he works to support defunding NPR and PBS. And finally, Representative Allen West wants to defund Medicare and leave the country’s most vulnerable citizens open to the predatory practices of the private insurance market.
There are a set of noteworthy paradoxes at work in Cain’s presidential run. Herman Cain is all about race, while simultaneously having nothing to do with race. Herman Cain’s blackness is central to his performance, but Black political interests have nothing to do with his policies. If candidate Herman Cain’s antics to this point are any an indication of what is to come, the “Awww Schucky Ducky” era of American politics will be mighty entertaining.
Funny, at the nadir of American Empire we can fiddle while
burns, but if Cain has his way, Nero will most certainly be wearing blackface as he buckdances for gold and silver as the country descends into further rot. Rome