With each new day heralding another poll showing former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain leading the GOP primary race, there’s a possibility albeit a slim one, if you ask most political observers that the 2012 presidential election could come down to a choice between two black candidates. This was a tantalizing scenario at the debut performance of The Mountaintop, a dramatized account of the last night in the life Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose legacy made the political successes of Barack Obama and Herman Cain possible.
An Obama versus Cain election “would be interesting,” Samuel L. Jackson, who stars as King in Mountaintop, told us after the show. “If they do that — I don’t really think that will happen — but it’ll be a fun conundrum for the majority of Americans to have to deal with.” ABC news anchor Lori Stokes felt that there was “no way in the world [Martin Luther King Jr.] would have thought, beyond the time that he was fighting for, that we would have viable, credible black men and women who can lead the country. And to see it all happen is a beautiful thing.” Hip-hop artist and producer Swizz Beats echoed that sentiment, telling us, “I think that is a great day. It shows progress.”
At the same time, legendary stage and screen actor Ben Vereen wasn’t quite as excited about the potential historic milestone. “I don’t care if they’re black, white, yellow, with purple stripes down their back: Get the job done,” he said. “America is in trouble. Get the job done. I don’t care the color. I don’t care the race, I don’t care the religion. I don’t care who their mommy and daddy was. I want them to get the people of America back to work and get America cooking. That’s what we hire him for, that’s what I want him to do.”