Herman Cain’s Strange Racialism


First Read notices that Herman Cain blames the sexual harassment story on racism, but has also insisted that opposition to President Obama has nothing to do with race:

At his National Press Club appearance on Monday, Cain was asked this question: How much of a role does race play in President Obama’s current political problems? He responded, “I don't think people being uncomfortable with this president has anything whatsoever to do with his race. It's bad policy that people have problem with this president.” But when Cain was asked on FOX last night if race was playing a role with HIS OWN political problem right now (re: the sexual-harassment allegations), he answered in the affirmative. “I believe the answer is yes, but we do not have any evidence to support it.” Moreover, a pro-Cain Super PAC released a fundraising solicitation entitled: “Don't let the media ‘lynch’ another black conservative.” It went on to say, “The left is trying to destroy Herman Cain — just like they did to Clarence Thomas. They are engaging in a ‘high tech’ lynching by smearing his reputation and attacking his character.”

It’s not really a contradiction. It’s an expression of a deranged but perfectly consistent worldview Cain has expressed many times.

Cain believes that Democrats are racist and the Republican Party is almost completely devoid of racism. The political press corps has trouble wrapping its head around it, but Cain expresses this opinion constantly.

Trying to understand the Cain phenomenon as an expression either of racism or of anti-racism is a dead end. Cain’s appeal is the expression of a particular variant of white racial victimization. In this world view, color-blind conservatives are endlessly smeared as racists, while liberals are actually violating the true precepts of the civil rights movement. Obama won election largely or entirely because of his race, through explicit or implicit blackmail against whites, who either voted for him to prove they weren’t racist, or shied away from attacking him for fear of being called racist. Cain’s candidacy offers the promise of upending this dynamic, or even reversing it.