The Herman Cain Surge, Politics of Race, and Trends in the Data

“I don’t believe racism in this country, today, holds anybody back in a big way” – Herman Cain

Ed “Sargent” Schultz of MSNBC launched a soft assault on Herman Cain this week, reverting to standard liberal talking points. (I will not be posting the video – I have no interest in giving more airtime to Schultz and his ilk.) It starts out with the standard liberal expression of “inequality = racism”:

  • Unemployment amongst blacks is twice the national average
  • Median income of blacks dropped much more during the recession than the national average
  • Structural and systemic inequality

I won’t dispute any of these claims – I think they are largely beyond dispute. I will merely note that these do not imply racism. This is the grand liberal stumbling block. Of course, I suppose it’s a stumbling block everybody comes across sooner or later. We see outcomes that could possibly be explained by our thesis and then claim that they are proof of the thesis itself – but this inverts causation.

Interestingly, this argument falls short at the start. Consider, IF we eliminated all racism AND all prejudice and ALL difference-of-treatment in America TODAY, would the unemployment gap, or income gap, or education gap disappear overnight? No. There is inertia. We may well see it disappear in a generation or two … but that is only IF those factors are the only drivers of the gaps in the first place. So the existence of a gap does  not prove the existence of the cause (even if the cause is in dispute) because of the delay in the system. (None of this is my main point – I simply felt that the Schultz commentary was so (i) imbecilic and (ii) consistent with liberal orthodoxy that it needed some attention.)

I happen to agree with Herman Cain. Racism, in the form of an inherent belief that one race is superior to another, is hardly named in America anymore.

What I really wanted to get to was Schultz’s notion that Cain is pandering to white racists when he claims that racism doesn’t hold anybody back – that he’s telling these racists what they want to hear in an attempt to draw their support. Here I think Schultz may be close – except for a couple of words.

Cain is not appealing to white racists, but certainly to white conservatives. Further, I do not for one second hear Herman Cain say these things and think it to be pandering. He is quite believable – to the point of thinking that he actually believes the things he’s saying. So, perhaps Schultz commentary should have been: “Herman Cain is telling white conservatives what he believes in the hopes that it will induce them to vote for him.” – that rascal!

Obsessing Over Race …

The call of the right is that the left really is the side that obsesses over race. On this I agree – the left obsesses over race like nobody’s business. Racism as a permanent American feature is a platform of the Democratic party. But that doesn’t mean that white conservatives don’t obsess over race. They do. (I say “they” because I don’t, though I am both white and would be called conservative by most definitions.)

White conservatives, especially in the south, have been told for years, decades, generations that they are racists; that their very existence is racist. They bristle this. They look around at their lives and at the inner machinations of their souls and say “no, I am not a racist – but I am conservative – it cannot be the case that simply disagreeing with you on issues of race and economic policy makes me a racist.”

To this end I think Herman Cain actually has a pretty good drawing power in the South. Southern white conservatives would love for the chance to throw the racism argument back in the face of liberals – the chance to actually vote for a black man who is a conservative. They’ll jump at the chance.

Nomasir on Cain …

I’m not on the Herman Cain bandwagon. Yes, I would support him over Romney. Yes, I would vote for Cain over Obama in the general election (I will not vote for Romney). That said, Cain talks like a Republican, not like a free man. He talks the language of Republicanism on social and economic issues, not the language of freedom and self-determination. There is something there to work with though. Of course, I’m not sold that Cain will get there.

Trends in Polling Data …

I got this image from Real Clear Politics (comments in red are mine):

The trends are consistent with a storyline we pointed to a few weeks back. Romney can’t break through the 1/4 mark – conservatives don’t like him and the Tea Party has huge pull right now. Bachmann got in on the act through July and surged to 2nd … the faded. Perry got in on the Tea Party game and surged way out to first … and then faded. Now it’s Cain’s turn, and boy is he rising fast. Will it last, or will the Tea Party audition another candidate?

Paul and Gingrich would appear to be next in line. I doubt it would be Paul, but we’ve also come along way if we’re even talking about Gingrich.

What I see in this is that if Chris Christie had gotten in, he’d be at 40% right now and cruising. If Palin had gotten in she’d probably be running in the lead right now, and might hold on. If Tim Pawlenty of all people were still in the race he might be getting this audition. I know, sounds crazy, right? But if we’re even talking about Gingrich in 3rd place then you know how crazy things are.

This is an electorate BEGGING for a real candidate. I suspect the person that wins Iowa and gets momentum is the one that starts speaking to the camera about a dream and a vision for America and a return to prosperity, independence, and freedom (rather than attacking the other candidates).

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