After excoriating Michele Bachmann and Cowboy Rick Perry, at least symbolically, when they first began to make noises in the polls, I initially decided to hold my silence for a while about Herman Cain, the latest Republican right-wing flavor of the week. The news media seemed to be doing a pretty good job of explaining why Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan is regressive, which means that poor people would pay a higher share of their income and of all taxes paid and that wealthy people would pay a lower share. Surely, once more people knew what 9-9-9 really meant, Cain would fade.
It’s still early in the flavor-of-the-week cycle, but Cain appears to be gaining ground. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll of GOP voters finds Romney leading Cain by 1 point—26 percent to 25 percent, a 14-point jump for Cain since the last poll taken three weeks ago. The poll has a 3 percent margin of error, which means Romney and Cain are virtually tied. Time flies when you’re having fun, but I think Cain has now held the non-Romney lead longer than either Bachman or Perry.
I think that Cain has one big advantage over the other non-Romneys in the race: Koch Brothers money and Koch Brothers-hired operatives are fueling the Cain campaign. The Kochs, owners of widespread energy and manufacturing interests and long-time opponents of government regulation and all environmental laws, are also the primary bank for the Tea Party. The Kochs and their network of wealthy friends may enable Cain to go the distance.
The Koch money legitimizes Cain in the way that big money always does. As I have written before, the media always tends to provide more and more positive coverage to the candidates with the most money. In the case of the Kochs, moreover, the legitimacy of their support also helps with the lie-and-myth-addled rightwing media.
The mainstream media has been pointing out some of Cain’s big verbal faux pas, for example, his call for building an electric fence between the United States and Mexico and his flirtation with the “birther” fallacy.
But no one is asking the broader, more important question: Is Herman Cain qualified? Or to coin a biblical pun: Is Cain able?
The fact that he worked his way up from relative poverty, like Bill Clinton and unlike the always-wealthy Mittman, speaks well for Cain’s abilities, at least his abilities to rise in the highly self-contained world of large corporations. That his field was fast food doesn’t make him any more of a bad guy than Romney is for his role in combining and fracturing companies, always leaving a much leaner workforce. Both represent the amoral aspect of business: we are here to make money, even if it puts a lot of people out of work or poisons them with too many calories and too much fat, sugar and artificial chemicals. And each represents another strand in the fabric of current American society: fat and unequal when it comes to wealth.
The media has tended to take Cain’s outrageous statements as proof of his clownishness, while giving Romney the benefit of the doubt. The assumption is that Cain believes his rightwing cant against environmental regulations, immigrants, unions, taxes and healthcare reform, whereas, when Romney repudiates his own healthcare reform or rails against all regulations, he’s playing to the crowd and will start to articulate moderate views once he has locked up the nomination.
To my mind, they’re both panderers, but learning the art of pandering is what made them business successes and will certainly help both continue to raise money. Romney has government experience. He was a relative success as a moderate Republican governor of one of our bluest of blue states, although he had the help of an economy in full bubble. One could make a case that Cain is as qualified to be president as the Mittman. I wouldn’t make such a case, because Cain’s views disqualify him off the bat: they are too extremist and too much based on myths and lies.
I’m still confident that Cain will fade, just as Perry and Bachmann have. The Republican party seems hell-bent on nominating Mitt Romney. You could make the case that he’s the best of the lot, but keep in mind that at heart Mitt is a born-rich boy representing the interests of the rich. That’s not a lot different from a got-rich boy representing the interests of the rich.