By Denise Clay
“Awww, shucky ducky!”
It’s kind of hard for me to take your seriously as a candidate for president, much less the president himself, when you begin a speech with a phrase made popular by a little known black comedian.
But that’s what Herman Cain did when he spoke at the Independence Tea Party’s annual gathering at the Independence Visitors Museum on Independence Mall on the Fourth of July.
Cain, the lone GOP presidential candidate who came to this gathering, was met by the Tea Party faithful with thunderous applause and talked about all of the standard stuff: there should be no national health care, no one should have to pay taxes to run the government, and the Constitution should be treated like it hasn’t grown at all in more than 200 years.
(I wondered if he was feeling the 13th Amendment, otherwise known as the Emancipation Proclamation, but I didn’t get the chance to ask.)
Now admittedly, I’ve kind of hesitated to discuss Cain. While much of that hesitation stemmed from the fact that the only thing that I really knew about the man was that he was once the CEO for Godfather’s Pizza, a chain that I frequented when I was a student at The Ohio State University in the early 80s, but wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole now because I get better pizza accidentally here in Philly.
I also hesitated because whenever someone who is not an African American conservative writes about African American conservatives, the chances of foul language being exchanged goes way up.
In fact, anything you say that isn’t totally complimentary is seen as having a bias against conservatives and blacks that don’t “toe the line” of the Democratic Party. You especially get that particular knock when you point out that most of what comes out of these African American conservatives mouths sounds (a) unfeeling, (b) unrealistic and (c) not at all in tune with what’s really going on in the African American community.
But because he’s a black dude running as a Republican, Cain kind of demands that you pay attention to him, especially since he’s running as part of a group, the Tea Party, that’s got some serious racist undertones and he wishes to be the standard bearer of the party that gave us the Willie Horton Ad when President George Bush The First ran for office against Democratic challenger Michael Dukakis.
(For those of you who don’t know who Willie Horton is, Google it. It’ll show up.)
But so far, he’s saying all of the right “hey, you can vote for me because I won’t ask you to do anything for black folks” stuff that Republicans seem to like to hear.
Cain said that he will fight those who “want to spend this nation into oblivion” and said he plans to give the country some alterations come 2012.
“It is the right of the people to alter and abolish government,” he said. “We will alter the Senate and the occupant of the White House in 2012.”
Energy independence was the theme of this year’s Tea Party gathering, so, Cain used his time to address President Obama’s recent visit to Brazil. While the current Black Occupant of the White House was visiting, he allegedly told his Brazilian counterpart that America would become the country’s best customer in terms of oil.
Since Cain is a Republican and Republicans don’t appear to be willing to rest until every space of American land has an oil derrick on it, he promised to do something different if he became president.
“Under the Cain Doctrine, America will be its OWN best customer,” he said. “Drill here. Drill now.”
Cain ended his speech by telling the group that he’s the only problem solver among the “strong field” of Republican candidates and will begin solving problems on day one.
(He also said “America will not become socialist Europe. Not on our watch.” I thought about asking him to define socialism for me. I didn’t want to cause trouble though, so I didn’t.)
Now at the beginning of his talk, a young man walked up to Cain holding a Ron Paul 2012 sign. Paul was the Tea Party’s first darling, a Libertarian who doesn’t believe the Civil Rights Act was necessary, a belief that he passed down to his son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.
(Actually it was a Ron Paul 2008 sign, but the 2008 was painted over in yellow. I’ll give the Paul folks points for recycling.)
“Now you can hold that sign up, but don’t do it in front of me while I’m talking,” Cain told the young man. “Not on my dime.”
Actually, the guy held the sign up behind Cain’s head as he was talking. It’s in all the pictures taken from his speech,
This brings up a concern that I’ve had about Cain and his candidacy. Like I said, the Republicans aren’t really big fans of people of color, or at least that’s what you’d get when you see how they’ve treated those who dared to run for the right to be the party’s presidential standard bearer.
In 2008, Alan Keyes ran for president as a Republican. He was treated like an interloper. He didn’t get to participate in any of the Republican debates. He got no traction.
While Cain has been invited to all of the right conservative parties so far, and has gotten some love from those on the right, he has had some issues. According to reports, members of his Iowa caucus campaign staff have hit the road.
But what really speaks volumes to me is the fact that there was a Ron Paul supporter who felt empowered enough to hold his candidate’s sign behind his head while Cain was speaking.
There are a lot of Republicans, including Cain, who believe that he can pick away at President Obama’s African American base because African Americans are actually conservatives.
This argument does have some merit. I say this because there are certain topics that when you discuss them with black folks, you might as well be having a conversation with a rock-ribbed member of the Christian Right.
For example, let’s talk about gay rights. To be exact, let’s point out the fact that in many ways the struggle for rights for gays and lesbians mirrors that of the struggle for rights that blacks went through in the 1960s. I did that in a column that I wrote a long, long time ago regarding the stabbing of a gay man by a black University of Arizona student. The stabbing was a pretty blatant hate crime and I said that prejudice is bad, no matter who espouses it.
I won’t get into the emails I got from one dude about that. Let’s just say that everything from my blackness to my sexuality was questioned.
But while blacks are conservative, we’re also really big on demanding respect. If the goal here is to have blacks join the Tea Party and put a Tea Party member into office, it might be a good idea to make sure that everyone understands this message, something his kid obviously didn’t do.
While there’s very little, (well, okay, nothing) that I agree with him on, I’m glad that Herman Cain is in the Republican Presidential Nomination conversation. Granted, he might want to stop sticking his foot in his mouth by saying stuff like he wouldn’t sign any bill over three pages long, Muslims would have to undergo a “loyalty test” to work in a Cain administration, and that blacks are “too poor to tea party”, but it’s good that he’s someone that Republicans are talking about.
Let’s see how long he stays part of the conversation.