Cain voter speaks: We call this a great triumph!


Southern white voters for Cain: It’s hard to know less than our big pundits do. Last night, guesting on Anderson Cooper 360, Gloria Borger lamented the early date of this year’s Iowa caucuses.

At present, the caucuses are scheduled for January 3. Sadly, Borger said the caucuses were held in February last time around.

Later in the program, Borger corrected herself. But good grief! The Iowa caucuses haven’t been held in February since 1996. Here are the dates of the Iowa caucuses in the last three campaigns:
Dates of the last three Iowa caucuses:
January 3, 2008
January 19, 2004
January 24, 2000
No, it doesn’t actually matter. But politics is Borger's only subject, and she works at the very top of the “press corps.” Like so many of her colleagues, she knows every current approved standard narrative, doesn’t know much else.

We were struck by something else on last night’s Cooper 360 show, though tape doesn’t seem to be available. We were struck by interviews CNN did with some Herman Cain supporters in Humphreys County, Tennessee (population 17,000).

We wouldn’t vote for Cain ourselves. But he held a rally in Humphreys County last weekend, and three very southern-sounding white voters said they’d be voting for him. We were especially struck by what the third man told Gary Tuchman:
TUCHMAN (10/17/11): Over the weekend Cain barnstormed through Tennessee attending six rallies. There are fewer than 20,000 people who live here in Humphreys County, Tennessee. Yet this turnout is huge, particularly for an area where so few people live.

CAIN (videotape): All of a sudden, the long shot isn't such a long shot anymore. How about them apples?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like Romney, and if he gets the nomination, I will support him. But I think that Herman Cain is more in touch with what the people want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He seems to be a straight-shooter, and just like some of the conservative views that he's putting out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's more like me than anyone else running, and I vote for myself so I vote for him.

TUCHMAN: Tell me why you think he's more like yourself than anyone running.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's country folk.
That third person sounded very southern. He was perhaps 65 years old; he was white. We wouldn’t vote for Cain ourselves. But we think what that man said is a great triumph for the movement Dr. King led.

That man is a very southern-sounding, older white male. His grandchildren got to see him say that the black guy is the person most like him.

This is a tremendous triumph for the American project. For our money, Melissa Harris-Perry was way too casual in her recent piece about white liberal voters. But at the start of her piece, she identified a particular type of racism—a type she said was pretty much dead:
HARRIS-PERRY (9/21/11): Electoral racism in its most naked, egregious and aggressive form is the unwillingness of white Americans to vote for a black candidate regardless of the candidate’s qualifications, ideology or party. This form of racism was a standard feature of American politics for much of the twentieth century. So far, Barack Obama has been involved in two elections that suggest that such racism is no longer operative.
We don’t know why Harris-Perry said this type of racism is “no longer operative.” It seems fairly clear that some people didn’t vote for Obama in 2008 due to his race. But Harris-Perry made a good case for the idea that this kind of racism is on the way out.

The testimony of this Cain voter spoke to what she said. It also spoke a million words about Dr. King's ongoing project.

We wouldn’t vote for Cain ourselves. But we’re very glad that this man’s grandchildren, in rural Tennessee, got to hear what their grandfather said.


  1. Still Confused in BklynOctober 18, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    Poor Dr King, how he continually gets misappropriated....

    Something tells me the great civil rights leader wouldn't see it as a great triumph that Southern whites persist in voting for policies that are detrimental to the vast majority of blacks. Even if --- *especially* if --- the preferred candidate were black.

    We wouldn't understand Dr King in this fashion. For ourselves, we think that Southern whites supporting a man hostile to the interests of most black people isn't a triumph at all, but a sign that absolutely nothing has changed, except for the race of the messenger.

    Poll black Americans. Or even ask a few you know. As them whether Southern whites supporting Herman Cain represents a triumph.

    We think we know what they'll say.

  2. Still Confused in BklynOctober 18, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    Thought experiment. While we're appropriating the thoughts of the late Dr King, let's imagine what the late Dr King would think of Clarence Thomas' ascension to the Supreme Court, and his performance on the bench.

    What would the late Dr King think of Clarence Thomas? We don't know. We don't know what the late Dr King would think of Clarence Thomas at all.

    But we might guess.

  3. I once thought things like this were good. Shoot, the one good thing about Obama being elected, I thought in 2008, was that it showed America can vote for a black guy. For what it's worth, we seem to have crossed some barrier and minorities and women can now win elections in both legacy parties.

    But I no longer think such things are that great. In fact, it feels like a team adopting a Noble Savage mascot, e.g. the Washington Redskins. Or tokenism.

    It's the policies that matter. And in reality, both legacy parties support immensely racist policies. Both Cain and Obama support racist policies.

    An imperial foreign policy that encourages vast wars against mostly brown people is inherently racist, as Martin Luther King, Jr. was fond of noting. The U.S. sends drones and missiles to countries we have not declared war on and kills 10 innocent people for each supposed bad guy they kill in this terrifying manner. The U.S. would never countenance a foe that killed so many civilians and would probably nuke all the inhabitants of said country in retaliation. Imagine it, if our foes actually starting bombing the homes of U.S. military personnel home for the holidays, killing 10 family members for each military member killed, via drone robots in the sky. But the U.S. does this all over the world, and more, and people in the U.S. don't blink an eye because these are sub humans to people in the U.S.

    Both political parties treat the innocent civilians in Iran, Yemen, Somalia, the over 100 countries the U.S. wages secret wars in, as rats. You won't catch Cain or Obama giving a F about these people.

    Plus, U.S. criminal policy is massively racist. Obama and the Democrats are almost indistinguishable from the Republicans in their fascist criminal policies. The U.S. imprisons the most people in the world, on a percentage basis and nominal basis. And these are gulags. We have a massively punitive system that punishes families and communities as well. We have a corrupt private prison industry and this system is inherently racist and brutal. The war on drugs simply replaced Jim Crow as a method to suppress minorities. Also, the death penalty is racist and barbaric.

    On two main issues, foreign policy and criminal justice policy, both candidates support racist policies so it does not make me feel good to see white people supporting these candidates.

    Both Cain and Obama are tokens serving a racist system.

  4. Saying one would vote for Cain is quite different from actually doing so. The proof of any of these prospective voter's statements will come in the future. A place most of us haven't visited yet. And, judging from past actions by people, is subject to change.

  5. The level of self-congratuluation in the US over the election of Obama was not only nauseating, but ahistorical. "Only in America, blah blah blah....This could only happen here, blah blah blah."

    Seven, count em, seven Muslim countries have had women heads of state. Bolivia elected Evo Morales, from the poor, disenfranchised indigenous community --- and he's proven far more progressive and radical than any black, white, red, or yellow man or woman would be here.

    But it's a triumph that some southern whites would vote for a black man who agrees with their regressive policies. Hmmmkay.

    Here's a triumph: America embraces social democracy, equality, and economic justice, regardless of the skin color of the people who deliver it. The rest is the worst form of identity politics.

  6. Worst...comments...ever.

    Bob is saying that we have come a long way where a southern white guy could say "I think he's more like me than anyone else running" about a black man. That is undeniably a remarkable statement that would not have seemed possible even 10 years ago.

    Why are some of my fellow liberals so resistant to evidence of actual racial progress.

  7. What would Dr. King think about Clarence Thomas? King said:

    I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

    I think King would be thrilled that Clarence Thomas is living his dream.

    BTW, I participated in a March on Washington organized by Dr. King.

  8. Bob is saying that we have come a long way where a southern white guy could say "I think he's more like me than anyone else running" about a black man. That is undeniably a remarkable statement that would not have seemed possible even 10 years ago.

    Thank you, anon. I won't be voting for Mr. Cain, but how can anyone deny how this voter's statements represent huge strides the country has made away from institutionalized racism?

    Of course we could be further along, but why deny the immense progress which has been made?

  9. Cangrejero, this represents strides away from *attitudinal* racism, but not one iota of progress away from institutionalized racism. Cain's policies would actually worsen the latter. For a site that wishes for more substance in our politics, there's no consideration of the effect of Cain's policies. Just "post racial" happy talk.

  10. Maybe we need to pay more attention to the Dr. King who got assassinated, the Dr. King who had put economic rights at the forefront of his agenda (they were always part of his agenda, but not initially at the forefront). That would allow for some nuance. We could them invoke Dr. King in the context of recognizing some degree of progress in some aspects of our civic life without forgetting that race has always been used by plutocrats in this country to keep whole classes of people, whatever their race, "in their place." We can celebrate that today there are southern whites supporting a black candidate whose parents and grandparents would never have considered doing so under any circumstances. At the same time, we can be duly suspicious of the way Cain is being used by plutocrats who may or may not be personally racist but who fundamentally don't give a damn about others' civil (including economic) rights, only about their own (narrowly defined) interests.

  11. Mch, Cain's backers not only don't care about civil rights but, much worse, they ate actively opposed and outright hostile to them. Whether they are "personally racist" is so beside the point it doesn't merit comment.

    That MLK Jr ---- the non Hallmark, non domesticated actual man; the man who died fighting the poverty, Vietnam; the man who said America will go to hell --- would have been anything but repulsed by Thomas is so non controversial, it too barely merits comment.

    Martin's view would've likely been similar to
    Marshall's: a white snake or a black snake is still a snake.

  12. So at what point is America *not* racist? Will it ever be good enough? Would the average black man or woman from 1961 be happy with the status of black America today? Are they better or worse off than they were? Would their grandparents be proud of the their progress?

  13. I went to a lecture by Chomsky a few weeks ago and was struck, not for the first time, by the man's nuanced thoughtfulness -- so in contrast to many of his "fans."

  14. My guess is that people are reflexively rejecting the notion that Herman Cain's popularity means anything in terms of racial equality because of short-term memories, or youth, or maybe just cynicism.

    The 90's and 00's saw huge campaigns that stressed racial harmony, happy faces on brown and black people, all while the divide between white and non-white people in terms of income grew (especially internationally). Nike ads featured athletes of all races (progress!) while Nike's factories forced brown people to work in slave-like conditions (not progress!). And there were tons of that corporate pablum that was enough to fool some people, but didn't actually do anything substantive for anyone.

    So, yeah, people are wary. We even managed to elect the first non-white president in the history of this country only to see him become the most anti-immigrant (especially anti-latino immigrants!) in the history of the country. He had a great ad campaign that won marketing awards and fooled a lot of people into thinking that we were doing more than electing another neoliberal who puts the 1%'s interests above everything else, but that's basically what we did.

    But the person in question isn't Benetton and he isn't running for office and he could probably have gotten away with making a racist comment in that interview with no real repercussions but he didn't. I'm with Somerby - that's a kind of progress.

    @mch: Can we get through one thread here without someone comparing Chomsky to Jesus? :)

  15. Mch, not sure why you're taking a jab. I've been very respectful on this thread and engaging yours and others' ideas seriously.

  16. "Why are some of my fellow liberals so resistant to evidence of actual racial progress." [sic]
    If I lived in Baltimore, I would probably be eager to point to the old southern man's comment as virtual proof that we live in Rush Limbaugh's post-racial utopia. If I lived an hour away in rural Virginia, I might cringe at the remark. But I was born and raised in the elite northeast and I read the statement as one of a man proving to himself that he is not racist while firmly embracing the "values" he has held throughout his life. Maryland is special in that it is not a southern or northern state and I think that someone in Baltimore who tends to hold liberal positions is willing to accept very meager evidence of racial progress as the real deal. I'm in New Haven and I'm not buying it. I work side by side with my fellow union members and I see racial resentment on the part of individuals who are Friends with Black People. And they all listen to Rush. A real post-racial society is one which will be based on economic justice, not on being able to say, "Well, I really wanted Obama to succeed."

  17. People seem to need a dictionary when it comes to the word "racism." Is a policy which has a detrimental effect on poor people, and thus a disproportionately detrimental effect on black people, racist? I don't see how it necessarily is.

  18. I suspect that many liberals like the idea of being anti-racist. It makes them feel good to give money and preferences to needy minorities (even when their not giving their own money or sacrificing their own privileges). It makes them feel morally superior to those who they believe are racist. It helps the Dems win elections.

    However, I think a lot of these liberals aren't actually concerned with black advancement. If they were truly concerned, they'd extol Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain, rather than attack them. If they were truly concerned, they'd be furious at an educational establishment that lets the average black student languish four years behind other young people. If they were truly concerned, they'd favor school vouchers to let inner city blacks escape from failing schools. If they were truly concerned, they'd oppose an overly high minimum wage that has pushed black teenage unemployment at 40%.

  19. David in Cal,

    Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain are tokens. They do not represent large portions of black people. Only a small percentage of black people are conservative and rich like Cain and Thomas. They serve the purpose of making conservatives like you feel that you've substantially rebutted the left's claims of racism and that racism is a thing of the past. It's a badge of honor for conservatives and, frankly, Democrats deserve a little of the backlash because they unfairly claimed the right is racist simply because of their opposition to Obama. But Cain and Thomas are tokens the right uses as debating points.

    This does not mean that Thomas and Cain should not have conservative views. They are entitled to choose to believe whatever belief system they want--no matter how misguided they are. They didn't necessarily ask to be promoted as tokens--but that's the purpose they serve.

    And your conservative policy prescriptions do indeed have a negative racial impact. Especially the voucher idea. Black kids are languishing in schools not because our public schools are failing them, but because huge portions of these children live in poverty and their fathers have been imprisoned under a Jim Crow type policy. For example, the census did not count imprisoned men in the communities where they formerly lived and where their families live, but they counted them in the community where they are incarcerated, so public funds are going to the jailor communities and the Jim Crow communities fall further behind.

    The irony is that you actually prove my point above--that both the Republicans and Democrats support racist policies. Both Obama and the Democrats are attacking public schools which will harm black people much more than the good that privatization will bring.

  20. David in Cal, you have no idea what "a lot of liberals" are concerned with. That doesn't mean you get to make up anything you want to.

    Speaking only for myself since that is the only persom for whom I am qualified to speak, it is not Thomas or Cain that I "attack," but rather their ideas and their ideology.

    For example, I find Cain's "9-9-9" tax policy idea to be utterly foolish. For you then to rush to claim that I am against "black advancement" because I find 9-9-9 utterly foolish is just you playing the tribal war game yourself.

    But of course, you yourself must then support every idea proposed by Obama, or else wouldn't you also be guilty of your same charge of opposing black advancement?

  21. And Wit Man? If you think Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama would have supported the same foreign and domestic policies that George Bush and John McCain support, then you've been living under a rock the past 10 years.

  22. "Only a small percentage of black people are conservative and rich like Cain and Thomas."


    this is unintentionally funny given that a GOOD percentage of blacks Herman Cain's age are in FACT "conservative". It is also true that a lot of the high profile black supporters of one Barack Obama are RICH.

    That a half Kenyan would be automatically considered "one of us" while a Herman Cain is a "token", given the actual actions taken by Obama while in office, well...I'll be nice and just suggest that cognitive dissonance can happen to anyone at anytime.

    "If you think Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama would have supported the same foreign and domestic policies that George Bush and John McCain support, then you've been living under a rock the past 10 years." Those who live in glass houses...

  23. Anonymous),

    Right back at you. I am astounded at the exact opposite; I can't believe people actually believe there is a substantial difference between the Democratic and Republican presidential contenders and that the Democrats have a more benevolent policies.

    It's so patently ridiculous I don't even know where to begin and don't have the energy. So let's just to agree to disagree--we're both astounded someone can take the opposite position on this issue. You haven't really added much though because you haven't even attempted to prove your argument and you are anonymous so why should we care how you feel?

  24. willyjsimmons,

    God any data to back you up? I don't know what you mean by a "GOOD" percentage. I would think good means something north of 40% but let's see what you got. And I guess it depends on how one defines "conservative."

    Then you write: "It is also true that a lot of the high profile black supporters of one Barack Obama are RICH."

    HAHAHA right back at ya. Did you not see the comment above where I gave equal treatment to Cain AND that "half-Kenyan" Obama, and called them both "tokens?" I am no Democrat or Obama apologist and dislike them equally, if not more, than the Republicans.

    I know that Obama has the same rich donors that Cain and the Republicans do. That Goldman Sachs was Obama's largest supporter and that he represents the top 1% like Cain and the Republicans.

    You prove my point. A Republican v. Democrat fight over racial identity politics like this is a meaningless fight and is a perfect distraction for the people that run the show (a racist, neo fascist show, btw).

  25. Wit man, you had been asleep during the entire 2000 election cycle, as well as 2004 and 2008.

    Good grief, how long have you been reading this blog? Has any of it sunk in? Or do you really believe the country would be in the same shape today had Gore won in 2000 or Kerry in 2004?

    Let me give you a few important areas: Gore would have taken the threat Bin Laden posed much more seriously that Bush did, to the point perhaps that 9/11 might not have happened, and if it did, the response would have been much more different. Gore NEVER would have invaded Iraq.

    On top of that, we would have had a prescription drug plan that allowed the federal government to negotiate prices with Big Pharma, we would be much farther along toward renewable sources of energy, higher CAFE standards on vehicles would have been in place much earlier, and Gore's targeted tax cuts for the middle class wouldn't have thrown the country back into deficits that even Reagan and Bush I didn't dream of. Nor would the Wall Street puppet masters have been able to conduct their raid on the U.S. Treasury.

    Other than that, things would have remained the same.

    Now as for Obama, his list of accomplishments --- from the stimulus bill through the first universal health care plan to pass Congress, has been quite remarkable and quite un-Republican.

    But don't let the truth get in the way of your psuedo-intellectual, false equivalency "both sides are equally bad" substitute for thinking.

    It is exactly that kind of thinking that keeps the 1 percent in power.

  26. Anonymous, at least we agree on one thing. I too find 9-9-9 utterly foolish.

  27. There you go, David. Attacking Cain and standing in the path of black advancement.


    I'll let you dig into the numbers yourself.

    I was referring to the black community and support for Obama more so than disagreeing with whatever else you wrote. Just pointing out that your observation re: Thomas and Cain, and "conservative" beliefs is off base.

    It's a curious contradiction we find ourselves in.

  29. Chomskyzinn, sorry if I overreacted and took the repeated "does not merit comment" phrase too personally, or misunderstood where you were aiming it.

    If anyone is still back here for comment, a really good post today by Jamell Bouie at Tapped on this very subject:

  30. Lowkey has already covered this subject better than anyone here:

  31. To have two Black guys battle each other in America for the job of leader of the free world
    could be the political event of the century. This
    scenario would also send liberal whites and Consevative white Independents flocking to the polls in a blizzard to re-elect Obama.A Herman Cain presidency would really make them quake in their boots.There is no doubt that Herman Cain is
    not qualified to be president.But the process of this match up would be great all around.Hey I love it when the political circus comes to town.If somehow Cain becomes president then the cirus never leaves.

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