Herman Cain, the political neophyte turned front-running Republican presidential contender, has a number of things in common with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Both are black men who come from humble roots in the South. Both are frequently, and brutally, skewered by other blacks for their conservative beliefs.
And as of this weekend when a sexual harassment scandal engulfed the Cain campaign, both men are now at the center of troubling allegations involving the possible mistreatment of female coworkers.
Since Politico broke a story about two women who were made to feel “uncomfortable” by Cain during his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association, many conservatives (blacks and whites alike) have rallied around the embattled presidential nominee.
WATCH MARTIN BASHIR’S COVERAGE OF THE CAIN’S FUNDRAISING PROWESS:
For many of The Hermanator’s loyal supporters, the charges are reminiscent of the “high-tech lynching” for uppity blacks Justice Thomas once charged was a prime factor behind the attacks on his nomination. It has reopened some wounds long thought healed after Thomas’ ugly nomination battle in 1991. While opinions vary on whether the allegations directed at Cain are legitimate, or part of a standard assault by liberal critics, most were quick to detect a pattern.
In a telephone interview, CNN Republican strategist Lenny McAllister was asked about a media double-standard — a charge often heralded by conservatives regarding the harsh spotlight often directed at GOP politicians in the press.
For his part, McAllister was less than sympathetic. Cain’s “double-talk on more than one occasion has increased the bull’s eye on his back. Being black and conservative created a big enough bull’s eye-so being caught in contradictions made it worse,” he said. ” Inappropriately addressing those apparent contradictions only added fuel to the fire.”
At this point, Cain seems to be under both friendly fire and enemy assault. Like Justice Thomas and most other avowed black conservatives, Cain is the frequent target of skeptics who dismiss all blacks who openly identify as s conservatives and/or Republicans as sycophants and ideologues who are mostly interested in establishment approval.
The most prominent attack dogs are often other blacks: the lengthy list of Cain’s most vitriolic attackers include people who, ironically, are not exactly pleased with President Barack Obama’s performance, such as Cornel West and Tavis Smiley.
The woes of black conservatives are hardly new to the political landscape. The ideological battle started with the father of black conservatism, Booker T. Washington. He was initially castigated by the likes of W.E.B. DuBois, the father of black progressivism who believed that a “Talented Tenth” should lead the race.
Fast forward to 2011, and the dynamic remains the same. Many black conservatives feel the assault on Cain is really a proxy battle for an ideological war for who can best articulate a case for the black community’s interests. Amy Reid, a black conservative activist, shares the sentiment of many on the right when she argues that, ”[Cain’s] treatment is what black conservatives face on a regular basis. Liberals want people to worship at the altar of diversity – except for people who don’t think like them. Liberals constantly marginalize black conservatives and it’s just something that we learn to expect.”
While most blacks who identify conservative don’t approve, its something they’ve come to accept, even as it exposes liberals to what Reid feels is hypocrisy. “These [liberals] purport to be the ultimate defenders of the marginalized in our society.”
However, Sonnie Johnson of didshesaythat.com who has made a name as a “Hip-Hop Palinista” who has been supportive of the former Alaska governor and one time GOP presidential contender, calls the Cain allegations a distraction. “The reason [black conservatives] keep losing is because we are fighting the wrong war. We are constantly playing defense. All they have to do is make an accusation about racism, sexual harassment, or pure hatred towards the poor and we resort to our defensive-mode. In the process we don’t get to talk about black unemployment, incarceration rates, drop-out rates, abortion rates — but most importantly the black on black crime that is ravaging our communities. What we should be talking about is how to stop us from killing ourselves.”
On the flip side, Johnson also says the sexual harassment allegations serve as opportunity for barbershop conversations, where black men can speak out about how frivolous allegations have the potential to ruin people’s lives.
Others say the Cain allegations are easy fodder for liberal critics threatened by the virtual lock Democrats have on the black vote. Ivo Jackson, Editor-in-Chief of One Mag USA for Minority Entrepreneurs, lashed out at “angry Democrats…clamoring for any scrap of evidence to prove true their bigoted stereotypes of self-hating, culturally assimilated black Republicans, and the racist white Republicans they work so hard to please.”
Jackson was quick to link Cain’s treatment to what Thomas endured twenty years ago, and charged that liberals were the ones who thrived on negative images. “Democrats need those stereotypes to live on, to be true, or else they won’t have a platform upon which to woo the hyper-emotional and uninformed to their movement.”
Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards once famously joked about the only way he could lose an election was to be caught in bed with either a “dead girl or a live boy.” At the heart of that remark, demonstrated by former president Bill Clinton’s impeachment, lies a truth about how tightly connected sex and politics are. If they didn’t realize it before, Cain — and certainly many of his staunch loyalists — are clearly discovering that now.
Vanessa Jean-Louis is an inner-city Guidance Counselor. She graduated from Fairliegh Dickinson University with a Master’s Degree in Counseling. She’s been featured on Fox News, “Our World with Black Enterprise” hosted by Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, NewsHour on BET, as well as HOT97’s “Street Soldiers” to name a few. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow her on twitter @afrconservative.