Good News -- Brought to You by Herman Cain
Herman Cain's campaign ended before the voting began. Steady polling numbers in Iowa had appeared ready to give him one more good moment. But after the latest news, it's time to run the obituary.
Here it is: the good and the bad (but not the ugly).
First, the bad.
As far as I know, neither Cicero nor even his friend George Will ever said:
"When the Republic meets with calamitous times, citizens should try what has never worked."
In the case of Herman Cain, we would have tried two:
1) The policy.
2) The public official.
First, the policy, 9-9-9. Nine percent income tax, 9 percent corporate tax, 9 percent new national sales tax. This is flashy. It's original. It's attention-getting. It got him on "Meet the Press" and the front pages of the nation's newspapers. It sets him apart and gives people something to remember.
In other words, it's great marketing. That's not surprising. Cain's a successful executive in a crowded industry with low barriers to entry. He's got to be good at something. But is he good at policy?
Who would pay more? Who would pay less? What would be the effect on revenue? How would it affect the economy?
Where has this worked? Where has it been tried? Shouldn't we see whether it works somewhere before we try it on the largest economy in the world? (Yes.)
Now, the public official. The public official is like the policy; there is no relevant track record. He'd be the only president who hadn't first been a vice president, a governor, a Cabinet member, a member of Congress or an Army general.
(Sure, he was a great pizza executive. But was he the best pizza executive? Did he win the nomination of the pizza party?)
So we don't know whether the policy would work, and we have no evidence that the candidate would have the skill to get it through Congress.
That's the bad news on Cain. He'd have been an untried public official pushing an untested idea in stormy economic times. (Never mind Libya, etc.)
The good news is that the enthusiasm for Cain among conservative Republicans shows that racism may be changing in America.
From the emergence of the tea party a few years ago, people on my side of the political divide were quick to charge them as racists. It's more complicated than that. The people who support the tea party generally hated President Bill Clinton as much as they now hate President Barack Obama. In that, their animosity was driven by culture, not race. (In the spring of 2002, Tom DeLay told an audience that he pursued impeachment against Clinton because "he was standing for the wrong worldview.")
Cain's popularity with the tea party suggests that perhaps we don't dislike people for their skin color as much as we used to. We dislike people for their views and what we think those views say about their values.
In this, we may be shifting away from racial considerations as we try to decide whether a candidate is "one of us." There is still an appalling amount of political hatred in the country, but we are directing it more toward people who think differently, not people who look different.
It's hard to get too enthused about the future simply because we're shifting the target of our hatred. But it does suggest that we finally are coming to terms with a long-denied truth: We can't know what people think just because we see how they look. We should listen to them, at least for a minute, before we decide whether we like them.
This is a little bit of good news. Thank you, Mr. Cain.
To find out more about Tom Rosshirt and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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