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Herman’s Antics

America’s political labelers always get busy during campaigns.  The ‘Black Reagan’, however complimentary one might take it, has been used to describe the rapid rise of Republican contender Herman Cain.  ‘In the firmness and cheerfulness of his conservatism, Herman Cain is the black Reagan.  That may be enough to overcome Mr. Romney’s logistical advantages’ (Courier Times, Oct 19).

Much of the political arsenal Cain offers lies in charm and conviction.  The heart that beats within might well be dark and sinister, but that need not matter.  The seductive smile, the winning manner, sometimes does the trick.  ‘Everybody liked Herman because his personality was so open and friendly and not abrasive’, claimed a colleague at the Kansas City Fed.

Cain has, however, run into trouble. Campaigning in the self-appointed leader of the free world has various occupational hazards.  Misdirected amorous interests can be some of them.  With stray hands and accusations of sexual harassment, Cain’s star is rapidly falling.

His accusers are also suffering the tarnishing brush.  Sharon Bialek, who was first in line with accusing Cain of sexual impropriety, has been served with eviction papers for being $7,500 in arrears over her rent.  (In act of pure tastelessness, her 13-year-old son was home to receive the process server.)  Ginger White, another accuser who claims to have been in a 13 year extramarital affair with the presidential hopeful, has also been hard up on cash.

To destroy their credibility, the Cain camp has painted them as opportunists seeking to poke around his pocket, and elsewhere.  Those higher up in the social rung kick downwards.  Again, that old issue of gender has cropped up – the ‘sexed’ exploitative woman seeking to bring down an ambitious man who stumbles without malice.  That these women might themselves have been invitingly vulnerable targets to a person in Cain’s position is not something that is entertained.

Love’s worth is hard to measure in money terms, and the financial pull of Cain is something that those on both sides of politics are questioning.  American politics is perched on the rhetoric of idealism but expressed in the form of hard cash.  Barack Obama’s light on the hill messages were backed by a suit for lobbying and firm knowledge of Chicago’s political swill machine.  Ending September 30, the Cain campaign had expended a mere $1.9 million.  Mitt Romney and Rep. Bachmann had, in contrast, forked out $12 million and $5.9 million respectively.

Nothing is clear on the Republican side in this presidential contest. The menu of political options is muddled and disorganized.  At the moment, hopefuls are jockeying and disintegrating.  Cain is treated as a fix, ‘somebody who was wandering through the emergency ward and was mistaken for a serious player’, claims Charles Cook, Democratic analyst.  Romney has been called ‘versatile’ by George Will, which is not always a good thing in the cold eye of the voter.  One voter’s versatile politician is another’s flip flopping acrobat, unreliable in the face of adversity.  The fact that Obamacare is apparently based on a variant of Romneycare that was pioneered in Massachusetts makes a kiss of death seem inviting.  Romney, it seems, is doomed to be the impressive politician who will occupy a box on the ballot but have few ticks.

Cain may well sizzle and flare, then whimper into oblivion with a cheery smile.  According to David Brooks of the New York Times, the Cain campaign has been absurd from the start for being run on the idea that the candidate is not actually running for president (Opinionator, NYT, Nov 30).  The only thing Cain knows about foreign affairs, quotes Brooks from a tweet, is that he denies having any.  Cain may well have been lit a stake – the only problem now is where he puts it.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge University. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

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Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

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