One of the most interesting candidates for President from the GOP side is Herman Cain. Mr. Cain is a proponent of the Tea Party, and embraces the ideology of conservatism. This site recognizes that Mr. Cain does speak to a constituency, and does not assume that Black American politics are monolithic. As other commentators have noted, there is a variety in Black politics that is often overlooked. However, in this case, there are some things that need to be observed about the Cain campaign as it stands.
What the Tea Party represents in 2011 is essentially xenophobia and white rage. It is difficult to decouple their opposition to the Obama Administration from a sometimes hidden, sometimes open racialized narrative. The Black Tea Partiers function as appendages to a wholly arch-conservative, and by extension anti-Black agenda. When you say utterly reprehensible things like Muslims should be forced to take loyalty oaths for office, then that does nothing but just mimic what white conservatives say and do.
In my analysis, Black conservatism is an appendage of white conservatism. It’s central ideas are little more than white reactionary thoughts expressed by Black adherents. Where we can point to historical instances where Black progressivism has differed and clashed with mainstream white liberalism, one finds very few parallels on the opposing side of the political spectrum. A strong indicator of its subordinate relationship. If any of you can cite examples to the contrary, I welcome you to point them out.
Flowing from conservative ideology is a nativist outlook. While this is espoused by conservatives, it is not an empowering thing for African-Americans to embrace. How does it look for an African-American candidate for president to be assaulting the constitutional rights of Muslims in this country? It places us in a complicit relationship with the oppressive forces out here who actually have the power to make life a living hell for American Muslims. We should not ally ourselves with such reactionary forces. Because they will turn around and attack us when it is convenient, and when we are no longer “useful” to their agenda. Look at what happened to Michael Steele. When you have folks who don’t exactly have their pulse on the heart of Black politics like Alan Keyes dialing you back on your rhetoric, then you know something is wrong.
To take it further, I argue that Black Nativism is counterproductive. Nativism doesn’t really serve the progressive purposes of a great deal of Black Americans. The civil rights movement was led by those with progressive instincts. Not one gain was made in this country was made for African Americans by having a reactionary outlook. While it may be novel for a Tea Party presidential candidate to traffic in these ideas, it is dangerous for African-Americans on the whole to co-sign. When Tea Partiers shriek “I want my country back” we have to wonder who they feel as though have accosted it. Though Herman Cain is not a serious contender on the GOP field, the kind of barbs coming from his campaign show us much about modern politics.
Marc W. Polite