Recently, POLITICO broke the news that Herman Cain, the front-runner for the Republican presidential candidate nomination, allegedly once had “improper sexual behavior” around female employees. In his tenure as the head of National Restaurant Association, the POLITICO reported, at least two females complained of being sexual harassed by Cain.
Although allegations of this sort are not uncommon with politicians and high-ranking government officials, it might be deleterious to his bid for the Republican presidential nomination for a handful of reasons. His quick rise in the ranks of the Republican Party is now in jeopardy, regardless of how substantial the claims were.
Cain is, in a way, a mysterious character. Many know him as a business executive – the successful CEO of the chain restaurant Godfather’s Pizza. Cain rescued the company from financial ruin during his term there as chief executive, thus, cementing his reputation as a bona fide entrepreneur. Prior to that however, Cain served as a member of the board of the directors of Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in the early 1990s, a fact that eludes many political spectators. Cain has also contended for a U.S. Senate seat from Georgia. Also, he found his resonating political eloquence as a radio talk show host.
Successful as he may be in the non-political, secular world, his appeal to the right of the political spectrum hardly has historical precedence. No President in the history of the United States has lacked prior political or military experience.
It may be, however, that at the peak of his political ambition, his fame tragically fades away. Besides the sexual allegations, Cain already faces three critical problems. First, this year’s Republican nomination race has seen the cycle of rising and falling candidates.
Second, his political controversies, which may be well received by the hard-right, would ultimately be disastrous during a national campaign. Be it his 999 plan, which his colleagues mocked as the price of a pizza or the sign of the anti-Christ; his plan to raise an electric fence across the Southern border to electrocute trespassers; his position of “no Muslim” need apply policy in his administration; Cain does not stand a chance of winning the presidency in today’s America. Finally, even though he is the front-runner, Cain is a marginalized candidate. Political pundits often portray the race as a battle between New England Republican Mitt Romney and Southern Republican Rick Perry. Now, to add insult to injury, a question is posed to another Black conservative: “Did you say, ‘Who has put pubic hair on my coke?’ to a female employee?”
That was the question the Senate Judiciary committee asked Justice Clarence Thomas, another Black conservative, during his nomination process to the Supreme Court when Anita Hill, his previous female employee, accused him of sexual harassment. To this effect, a pro-Cain PAC labeled Cain’s accusation as another “high-tech lynching” of a Black conservative – an assumption based on the idea that liberals are infuriated by Black conservatives, possibly because the Black base of the Democratic Party may be perturbed.
Cain’s accusation is more consequential by the fact that what we see in the polls today, perhaps, could eventually result in the “Bradley effect” – a phenomenon named after Tom Bradley, a Black politician who was running for governor in California and was highly favored in the polls until, to the surprise of pundits, he lost the election. Cain’s marginalization is explicitly based on his race: could he perform well among Southern Republicans often associated with racism?
Therefore, this alleged scandal, whether it lacks substantiation or not, could abruptly end Cain’s favorability ratings among his constituents. It may be contentious to suggest that Democrats easily circumvent scandals as these, as with the case of John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton; however, the socially conservative Republican may deny him a pass. Cain has been a successful businessman as well as an insurgent candidate, and hence a successful politician.
Regardless of what he did or did not do, this allegation could potentially end Cain’s political ambitions in disgrace. Could it be that Cain’s time in the spotlights will be brief, or perhaps, as he has risen, he might as well be on his way down the cliff of political obscurity?