Why Cain Matters


A reader makes an excellent point:

It occurred to me last tonight that there is a silver lining in the Cain scandals and the appalling reaction on the right. Yes, we have an entire party – in fact, the effective majority governing party of the last 40 years – dismissing sexual harassment as a concept, much less a problem. But. We also have a black man who stands credibly accused of serial sexual predation against unwilling white women, and the older, whiter, Southern portion of our body politic doesn't have a problem with that. In a way, that reflects breathtaking progress on the racial front for America.

I wish that were true. I fear it's just a sign of pathological partisanship and pseudoconservative paranoia about the media – or an opportunity for Limbaugh, Coulter et al. to refresh their media brands. But, hideously, it has gone further than that. The very public attempt by the Cain camp to slime and smear these women, to drag them through a grueling process of public examination and to tell potential other victims that they should "think twice" before coming forward is so neanderthal and vile it belongs to another era.

But this is a fascinating moment. Because it is where denial meets reality, a very dangerous spot for the current GOP. I once believed that the cult of Palin could bring this conflict to a head – her cult vs the reality of her bizarre, disturbed life. But it turns out that Cain could be that catalyst. What if Kraushaar's documentation of her case proves to any sane person that sexual harassment took place? Why isn't evidence of Cain's public meeting six weeks ago with a woman he has publicly said he has never met and couldn't remember immediately reveal a delusional mindset that instantly disqualifies a person from running for president?

The current GOP is a circus tent. A party that has a presidential front-runner with zero experience in public office and a risible grasp of basic facts about politics and the world is in deep enough trouble. But when that front-runner is credibly accused of serious abuse of power and has crawled out on a limb of total denial about it, then that party is more than just a circus. It's a threat. Palin showed that. Cain reinforces it. Palin withdrew before a final reckoning. Will Cain?

(Photo: Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain meets with restaurant manager Bobby Wiggins and hostess Katie Toney at an Italian restaurant in Stockbridge, Georgia on May 29, 2011. By Erik S. Lesser/Washington Post)