Black Conservatives Could Sink With Cain

If the Tea Party favorite self-destructs, African Americans on the right will pay the price.

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Cain sees waterboarding as an "enhanced interrogation technique" and homosexuality as a "choice," flip-flops on abortion depending on the day of the week and somehow doesn't realize that China has nuclear weapons.

Absolute sweet music to an ideological Tea Party-esque Republican body politic.

It helps that Cain comes off as that gruff school principal whose toughness you appreciated 20 years after graduation. That exterior wears no particular color. But Cain adds to that an ability to simplify his message so easily without making himself look ignorant -- at least up front -- the way Michele Bachmann does, or phony the way Mitt Romney does, or careless the way Rick Perry does or autocratic the way Newt Gingrich does.

So isn't that a good thing? Not really. One of the things history has taught us is that people who can appeal to masses but who avoid the scrutiny of individuals are dangerous.

To paraphrase Men in Black, individuals are smart because they are discerning, but people -- meaning groups -- are fearful, nervous and easily manipulated. That, to me, explains why Cain is doing so well in the polls. People don't need to look through a candidate's position with a fine-tooth comb. They just need to believe that he will kick the ass of their collective problem, namely this shitty economy.

The fact that as many as four women have accused him of sexual harassment may not even matter because he doesn't have the entire political opposition swooping down to demonize him the way the Republicans did to Bill Clinton.

Does any of this mean he'll be president come January 2013? Not at all. We're still a year out from the election, and anything can happen between now and Election Day. But so far, because of everything I've talked about, Cain has managed to avoid the landmines and bear traps of conservative opinion by simply being oblivious to the nonsensical nature of the things he says.

Instead, he appears, more than any other GOP candidate, to be the anti-Obama: clearly black, but with a "blacks complain too much" attitude about race; independently wealthy, but somehow appealing to people who are in foreclosure; willing to thump his chest to the world, while knowing virtually nothing about foreign policy.

And he gets away with all of it.

So this is why my envy of black conservatives ends where Herman Cain begins. They can hold high the ideals of what America should be. But then they've got to deal with the next cringe-worthy thing Cain says and bear his cross, because he now represents all of them.