Herman Cain’s rise and fall would have been more surprising had he not been a Black politician.
From Adam Clayton Powell to Marion Barry, from Charles Rangel to David Patterson, many Black voters expect their leaders to be taken down at some point by the powers that be.
With Cain, Black America held its breath, anticipating some sort of stumble as he bullied his way to the front of the Republican pack. And in a not so surprising, seemingly scripted fashion Cain did exactly that—stumble, plummeting from the heights of political stardom.
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When two women claimed Cain had sexually harassed them more than a decade ago, a chorus of skeptics assumed it was all just dirty politics. Conservatives rallied around their great Black hope; as did Black voters, who assumed racist elements were once again at work to deny a Black man from gaining power.
Conventional wisdom would assume that these “continued distractions” are nothing more than partisan, racially motivated smears, but what we’ve witnessed is actually a different trend—a complex evolution if you will.
Black politicians, having long striven to achieve political equality and now capable of reaching the nation’s highest office, are instead squandering the benefits of their struggle, shamelessly assimilating into the corrupt culture of American politics. Unfortunately, it is a culture where greed and infidelity are all too common.
For years, Americans have watched as White politicians indulged in the shady trappings of American political power. Now, as it appears with Cain, Black politicians are in positions to follow suit.
Whether it is Cain’s sexually inappropriate dealings, Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas’ sexual harassment hearing, or former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s extramarital affair, even to be accused of sexual wrongdoing is to have achieved a level of influence that once escaped Black political figures.
And while corruption and infidelity are nothing to celebrate, it can be argued that their prevalence among Black political figures ironically reflects a bizarre form of progress.
What defined Black politics in the past was an absence of power, where racists explicitly worked to prevent Blacks from exercising their influence. It is a tradition where Black political power was largely limited Black to protest and activism, where a Black leader’s power rested in maintaining the moral high ground.
Today, it’s as if Blacks have graduated from the Negro Leagues to the majors of American politics, where the “professionals” bribe, extort, embezzle and sling mud in the form of sexual allegations.
Having leveled the playing the playing field, Black politicians are increasingly adopting the shady, double-dealing, salacious ways and customs that have come to define American politics.
Accusations of racism miss the point.
Blame the passing of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, which legally protected Black political participation. Blame hip-hop and its socializing power, influencing younger generations to vote for Black leaders. Blame CNN and MSNBC for their efforts to recruit black viewers, and Fox News for branding and promoting Cain as conservatives’ answer to Obama.
At the end of the day blame Herman Cain’s greed, but know he was who he said he was. A politician who had all the answers the keepers of the status quo wanted. Tax the poor, give rich tax breaks. A corporate crony who served a 999 economic plan packaged like a pizza deal.
As depressing as it may seem, to have had a Black candidate—who for a matter of months looked like he would steal the Republican presidential nomination, only to be revealed as a sleazy mack daddy—is still a far cry from where Black politics began.