Black Conservatives Could Sink With Cain

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

Getty Images
Getty Images

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m envious of black conservatives.

They can see America through a visor that was clouded for me many years ago. To them, this is a nation of opportunity for anyone who is willing to work hard enough. I believe that, too, but experience has taught me that such a concept must be spoken with a wink, or written with an asterisk.

On the surface they are right, that this is the wealthiest, most prosperous society in the history of civilization and that we’re damn lucky to be in a nation where at least our social position is fluid and potentially mobile — a nation where we can pretty much do as we please if we conform to certain rules … and racism is only in your head.

After the things I’ve witnessed and experienced, I can’t take that position. But I envy the ability to be so blasé about race in America, as if closing one’s eyes eliminates the problem.

On the other hand, we’ve got people like Herman Cain, an idealist who thinks that the unemployed are in their situations because they just don’t try hard enough, that blacks are “brainwashed into not being open-minded” about conservative positions and that racism doesn’t hold blacks back (using himself as an example), and who believes that God told him to run for president, sort of like the way God told Moses to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.

And stuff like that is pretty much where the envy stops.

Yeah, as I get older, I find myself getting more conservative about things; for example, I think there’s too much government in the hood (that’s another conversation). But I take a look at what is now the face of black conservatism, and it’s no longer someone like Thomas Sowell or John McWhorter, with whom I would likely disagree but with whom I’d at least be able to have an enlightening conversation.

Instead, somehow Cain, with his populist charisma, has managed to get conservatives in general to anoint him the Apostle of the Negro Right. In doing that, he’s surprisingly ahead of the other contenders for the Republican nomination. How does he do it?

The same way pseudo-populists have been winning elections for the past two centuries: He tells people what they want to hear.