Candidate Cain a Republican first, long overdue

Polls show that Black Republican presidential contender Herman Cain, a former resident of the Twin Cities, continues to hang on in the race for the Republican prize. We should all be proud that finally it is routine to see Blacks as qualified to be president.

How great it would be to see two Blacks vying for the presidency as representatives of the two major political parties. That would make Martin Luther King, Jr. smile down from his new Mt. Rushmore likeness on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and it would make Abraham Lincoln smile in his chair as he looks over the Reflecting Pool, staring at Capitol Hill.

Who would have ever thought it? The real question is this: Is America ready for even more prime time? I’m not sure, although it’s clearly possible. Look how many of us said a Black man would not be elected president in our lifetime.

One of the measuring sticks for a presidential campaign is the ability to raise money, where the key color is not white or black or red or brown or yellow. The key color is green. I’m not sure Herman Cain is going to be able to do that over the long haul. Key Republican contributors like the Koch brothers will hardly funnel money Cain’s way. Then again, it could happen.

But Herman, as all candidates, has to stop stepping on the banana peels, those tossed by his competing Republican candidates and those he tosses on the floor himself. It wasn’t very wise last week to advocate building an electrified fence along the border that would send those who touch it to their death.

But he is in good company. Too many Republican contenders speak carelessly about not wanting to follow constitutional rights and constitutional guarantees.

Herman Cain should know better. In fact, as a young man working for the Pillsbury Company here in the Twin Cities, Herman had a little different view about Muslims, immigrants and civil rights. Yes, I knew Herman Cain then. He was part of the corporate hierarchy of which we were all members. (I was in the office of the president of NSP.)

Most of us have heard the political doctrine that you have to be “a man for all seasons.” The key is not to pick the wrong season and not to get swept away by the media tidal wave, never to be heard from again.

 

One of the banana peels Herman has tossed on the floor and slipped on, as have other prominent Blacks, is the dismissal of the significance and importance of affirmative action to the Civil Rights Movement. When Herman Cain founded the CDH record company in the Twin Cities, he didn’t have a problem taking advantage of equal opportunity loans and funding. In fact it was affirmative action and civil rights that placed Herman into Pillsbury in the first place, putting him up on the corporate ladder where he could then have access and opportunity to pursue his success.

Sometimes we forget from whence we come, and sometimes we don’t have a clue about where we are about to go. One of the worst feelings in life is when you are in a dark room and can’t find your way, and you step off that unseen step and think that you won’t stop falling.

Brothers and sisters who benefited from affirmative action should give thanks for it, not pretend it didn’t exist and they did it all on their own. We need more action affirming the value of Blacks to improve education and jobs.

If this were October of 2012, two weeks before the national election, I’d say that Herman would be a serious candidate and that history was about to be made again. But instead, this is October 2011, not November 2012. We’ll be watching closely.

Will his campaign momentum continue to be positive? Will the Republican rank and file see him as a viable candidate to carry the Republican Party’s banner in the presidential campaign of 2012?

But candidates, White or Black, that don’t avoid slipping on banana peels will be nothing more than answers to presidential trivial questions, their moment fleeting as they join others who stepped up, stumbled and fell back never to be heard from again.

These are serious times in America. We cannot have someone contending for high office who is viewed as not serious or as a clown entertaining the political masses.

Stay tuned.