Yesterday, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and 2012 Republican presidential primary candidate Herman Cain passed away after a long struggle against The Virus. Cain was 74.
Breitbart calls Cain a “Conservative firebrand,” which was apparent to anyone following the crowded 2011-2012 Republican presidential primaries. Like 2016, that was a crowded primary field, with tons of conservative darlings and Establishment types alike jumping into the field. Back in those days, everybody thought Barack Obama was going to be the next Jimmy Carter—an ineffectual, overly-progressive one-termer. The economy stunk, Obama seemed out of his depth, and conservatives were united and motivated to get out and vote.
Herman Cain quickly set himself apart from the rest of the crowd, though—he wasn’t a career politician, but a successful businessman (according to John Derbyshire, Cain is also somewhat a mathematical genius). He put out his bold “9-9-9 Plan“—flat, nine percent national sales, income, and corporate tax rates. Cain’s reasoning: “If ten percent is good enough for God, nine percent is good enough for the federal government.” Yes, it was a bit far-fetched, but it was catchy, and in an era of high corporate and income taxes—both of which undermined American business competitiveness domestically and abroad—it resonated with voters. The implicit reference to the biblical tithe also let voters know Cain was a devoted Christian, which was a welcome change from the open hostility of the Obama administration to religious liberty.
He was also a populist—at least, he came across that way in his speech. Cain was an exceptionally rare breed: a black conservative who sounded black, was culturally black. There was no way anyone could deny Herman Cain’s “blackness” in any genuine way; as my own mother put it, “I’d love to see them [the progressives] claim he isn’t black.” Of course, had Cain won the nomination, claims that he was a “race traitor” and an “Uncle Tom” (he’s actually in a documentary by that name!) would have been prevalent, but compared to Obama—who, it must be remembered, is biracial—Herman Cain was like the hype-man for Soul Train.
That hundreds of thousands of white conservatives loved him—remember, at one point he was leading in the polls—is a testament to the fact that most conservatives don’t care what you look or sound like, we just want you to be conservative. We also want you to care about our concerns—and Cain did. In many ways, Cain was a soulful proto-Trump: a charismatic, unorthodox political figure who entered the highest contest in national politics as a comparative amateur, but who captured the attention and imaginations of beleaguered, forgotten voters.
Cain withdrew from the race on 3 December 2011, due to lurid sexual harassment and assault allegations from his time with Godfather’s Pizza, all of which Cain strenuously denied. That’s one element about 2020 that’s different than 2012—even after the hysterical witch hunts of the #MeToo movement, the sexual assault card doesn’t seem to carry the weight it did even nine years ago. What destroyed Cain’s surging campaign would now be dismissed. Trump is a noted playboy, so conservatives don’t expect him to be a saint, and the blatant character assassination of Brett Kavanaugh pretty much destroyed any credibility conservatives give to unfounded allegations.
Sadly, that tactic still worked in 2011, and Cain pulled out of the race. As such, I cast my vote for Newt Gingrich in the SC Republican primary that year, but the powers-that-be were determined to shove Mitt Romney down our collective pizza holes. I can’t help but wonder that if Cain, who later became a strong Trump supporter, had pulled out the unlikely in 2012, he may have been the Obama-slayer we wished to see. Perhaps he would have been the Trump.
Alas, we’ll never know, but things did work out despite the disappointment and tyranny of a second Obama term: it culminated in Donaldus Magnus.
Herman Cain was a true American: a patriot, a father and husband, and an entrepreneur. He entered the arena boldly. He left bloodied and bruised, but not beaten. Now he is with Jesus.
Rest in peace, Herman Cain.