Hermain Cain: Not Your Next President, Your Next Sarah Palin

Though he maintains that he's a devoted Christian, Herman Cain looks to be a man made in her image.

Six weeks before Herman Cain decided to "suspend" his campaign for president, we brought you some pre-harassment, pre-affair words of wisdom. It's only a matter of time before Fox News comes calling.

If you’d have told anyone this time last year that the darling of the GOP would be an old, black pizza baron, you’d probably have been laughed out of the Tea Party rally. Lo and behold, we're 12 months away from the 2012 presidential election, and Herman Cain—an old, black pizza baron—is outpolling his GOP presidential opponents, including far more qualified candidates like Mitt Romney. But while the polls may be on the 65-year-old’s side for now, reality will not be, and the reality is this: Herman Cain is not your next president. Herman Cain is your next Sarah Palin.

First, let’s realize that the polling about Cain doesn’t matter. The Florida straw poll he won recently was an event that cost $175 to attend, and only 996 people voted for Cain. If anyone thinks that’s a meaningful litmus test for how Cain would fare in a major election, they’re likely being blinded by the trendy candidate’s unfounded media buzz. In April 2008, 8 percent of Americans told the Associated Press that they would feel uncomfortable voting for a black president. Assuming the actual number is higher due to the number of people ashamed of being forthcoming about their racism, it's likely that, when it comes right down to it, 12 to 15 percent of voters simply aren’t going to choose Cain over Romney or Texas Governor Rick Perry because of the color of his skin. As Charlie Cook recently wrote in National Journal, Cain really has no chance:

By traditional yardsticks of measuring a presidential candidate’s potential success, [Cain] falls short. For hard-charging conservatives who have become disillusioned with Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and now Perry, and who have resisted the appeal of Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, Cain may be the new flavor of the month. But without the apparatus, money, or expertise in actually winning a party’s nomination, it’s doubtful that he can go very far.


If we all agree that Cain can’t win, the media spectacle surrounding his candidacy starts to take a familiar shape. His tendency to put his foot in his mouth when discussing sensitive topics, his amateurish attempts at policymaking (e.g. the “999 plan”), the embarrassing incidents from his past life coming back to haunt him—in deference to those who don’t remember, these were all hallmarks of another candidate just three years ago, a female governor of Alaska with a goofy lexicon and a wide-eyed smile that simultaneously said, “How’d I get here?” and “I don’t ever wanna' leave!”

Like Palin, Cain is approaching his run at high office with the kind of aw-shucks country logic some voters and Fox News personalities love to hear. He’s a character with charisma to spare—even I like him, to an extent—and that’s endearing, especially in the initial stages of a presidential campaign. But, also like Palin, Cain often seems wildly unprepared for a job as complex as President of the United States. That unpreparedness will prove to be his unraveling. Because while straw poll voters might get a kick out of cheering on a scrappy underdog with far-fetched ideas about overhauling the entire American tax system, the average voter is going to want to know how Cain is going to put food in their refrigerators and money in their pockets, and how he’s going to keep the nation safe. Thus far, Cain has proven time and again that he can’t seriously articulate how he’ll accomplish any of that.

The good news for Cain is that when he loses—and sooner or later, he’s going to lose—he’s at least going to become even richer than he already is. There will be book deals, Fox News contracts, and speaking appearances, all of which his predecessor, Palin, has been flush with since she ran for veep and lost. Over the course of nine months between 2009 and 2010, in fact, Palin earned an estimated $12 million, far more than she’d have made in office, and almost twice as much as Cain’s entire net worth. Heck, if he’s lucky, Cain might even get a spot on Dancing with the Stars, just like Sarah Palin’s daughter, Bristol.

There’s so much money to be made not in office that there are theories Cain doesn’t even want the presidency. Rather, he just wants to get famous and quadruple his earning power. If that’s the case, at least he's not as foolish or self-indulgent as Palin, who, before she became a total media sideshow, seemed to actually believe she’d have an office in the White House one day. Cain would instead be what he’s been since arriving on the scene: nothing but a businessman.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Gage Skidmore

Julian Meehan

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