Before Barack Obama was President Barack Obama, black Republicans had it pretty easy.
No one really cared what former Rep. J.C. Watts thought about Afghanistan or what former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell thought about top marginal tax rates. All those guys had to do was offer themselves up as the buttoned-down alternative to lefty black spokesmen like Rev. Jesse Jackson or Rev. Al Sharpton, and they were pretty much good to go.
But after Obama came along with his Norman Rockwell-esque family and extended the Bush-era tax rates on his way to killing Osama bin Laden, black Republicans’ job got just a little bit harder. They can’t get more hawkish than Obama — he’s fighting two inherited wars and one of his own. They might lower taxes some more, but it’d only be after Obama rebated $288 million in the stimulus. They could keep fighting gay marriage, but they’d be fighting a battle that they’ve already lost.
That’s where presidential contender Herman Cain, Rep. Allen West and Rep. Tim Scott come in. So far at least, none has seized the mantle as standard-bearer for black conservatives. Even though all that any of them has to do is offer a buoyant, judicious, forward-looking face for black conservatism, none of them has done it yet. There’s a job opening out there for a black Ronald Reagan — but he’s just not one of these guys.
Cain’s profile resonates: He’s a boardroom titan who crosses over to Tea Party rabble-rouser. He calls himself a “problem solver,” not a politician. But he’s managed to dig himself in deeper and deeper as a Muslim-baiter — a stance that does nothing to elevate him as a big-tent statesman.
After saying he’d decline to appoint Muslim Americans to public posts — lest they “ease Shariah law and the Muslim faith into our government” — there’s no turning back for Cain, who now tells Fox News Sunday‘s Chris Wallace that Muslim Americans in Murfreesboro, Tenn., have no right to build an Islamic center on private property because their neighbors call it “hallowed” ground. It’s an unconstitutional, ungracious and — to say the least — un-Reagan-like approach.