November 18, 2011

Bye, bye, Herman, it's been fun

It is becoming clear that Herman Cain's 15 minutes of fame are up. So what caused the rise and fall of Cain? The fall is perhaps easier to explain than the rise. While I think he could have survived the fact that he is ignorant about almost anything other than the restaurant business or that he seems to be a creep when it comes to women, the combination of the two was too much even for the Republican party's crazy base. The relentless mockery has taken its toll. As one could have expected, The Daily Show mined a rich vein of comedy out of Cain's latest gaffe over Libya. It was brutal.

He is no longer their darling and their new heartthrob is, incredibly, Newt Gingrich. It is surely an indication of how desperate they are and how much they dislike Mitt Romney that they are now pinning their hopes on yet another arrogant blowhard, someone whose candidacy was declared dead just a short while ago and will be dead again soon.

The Republican party primaries are providing further evidence of the reality of the 27% crazification factor, that argues that 27% of the electorate is willing to support even the craziest of candidates or issues. That was roughly the size of the support that Michele Bachman, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain reached before their stars faded and that group looked for a new crazy person to venerate.

But what caused Cain's rise in the first place? Reader Tim sent along this very amusing clip in which Rachel Maddow marshals the evidence that Herman Cain is a performance artist whose entire campaign was a spoof, and that he kept sending out coded messages that indicated it was all a joke but that we missed them. And this was even before the Libya fiasco. Calling Cain a performance artist could be construed as an insult to genuine performance artists, but in recent days that term has become synonymous with anyone who is pulling a complex prank or hoax. (Incidentally, while I like Rachel Maddow, she is a little too hyper for my style. But I like that fact that she has her own show and presents views and guests that might not get a hearing otherwise.)

Maddow was being facetious (I think). I don't think Cain started out as a hoax candidacy. I think that he was just another one of those rich former businessmen who are arrogant enough to think that they are really smart and can run the country but did not seriously expect to succeed in their campaign. It likely started out as a vanity project to get him a brief moment of the limelight. I think he may have been truly surprised by the fact that crazy policies that feed the prejudices of the base, delivered with arrogance and condescension, struck a chord with so many party faithful that he started to think he had a serious shot at the nomination, not realizing that slogans only take you so far and that increased prominence brings increased scrutiny. This, coupled with the fact that Republican party's real power brokers were probably terrified that someone as unelectable as he would get the nomination, resulted in him getting hammered from even those within his party, so that his campaign started taking on water and sinking rapidly. It is noticeable that Republican party stalwarts, and this includes Fox News, did not rush to provide Cain with a full-throated defense, a sure sign that they want him gone.

Conversely, Romney has been saying all manner of contradictory and bizarre things and yet he has escaped any serious criticism from the Republican establishment commentariat. The Republican party leadership clearly wants Romney, reckoning correctly that he will advance oligarchic interests and has the best chance of winning in 2012. It will be interesting to see how they undermine the Gingrich boomlet.

The party leadership doesn't really care about Romney's dubious stands on social values that the crazy base of the party really cares about and has resulted in the latter creating a movement that is dedicated to preventing Romney from getting the nomination. The person who must be most chagrined is Tim Pawlenty. He would have been the most credible not-Romney who could have got the support of both the party leadership and the crazies except that he was knocked out by the idiotic and absurdly unrepresentative Ames, Iowa straw poll right at the beginning.

So it is time to say farewell to the Herminator.


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Maddow's comments about the NY Governor's race do seem to clarify that she was being facetious. I agree that her soliloquies can be overwrought, but there's no denying her intelligence. That was a really strong piece of work, and a ferocious contrast to the banality of Murdoch's minions.

Romney is the only candidate capable of challenging the greatest performance artist of them all, Barack Obama. (Hope and Change? Hah! P.T. Barnum would have been impressed by that one. Masterful manipulation!) In theory, continuing economic woes should strengthen Romney's hand. But the deep-seated animosity towards Romney from the crazier (and more active) elements could reduce Republican turnout and wound him mortally.

So, will it be Chicago or Hawaii in 2017 for the Obama presidential library? The warmer climate would be appreciated by OWS's descendants looking to protest the latest monument to oligarchic rule, but not many of them will be able to afford the ticket. Surf's up, Barry!

Posted by Sarah Renninger on November 18, 2011 10:51 AM

I long ago wondered if Cain wasn't just trying to get free publicity for his motivational speaking business and then found himself in an unanticipated position of possibly making it. However, I think from his show of ignorance and arrogance, that Mano's explanation is more likely.

Posted by G on November 18, 2011 02:22 PM

Shalom Mano,

For me the moment came when I saw the smoking ad with the slow smile. Personally I've always considered all the not-Romney candidates to be in the circus simply to raise money and gather notoriety for themselves.

Herman Cain -- along with Michelle Bachmann and all the others -- can look forward to years of speaking fees. That Cain is already a motivational speaker tells me that he has known what he is doing from the get go.

At this moment I don't think Maddow is being facetious. I haven't watched any of the debates because I understand them to be political theatre with no meaning or value other than self-promotion. Had I watched, the Pokemon moment would have gobsmacked me (I have nephews and students who were all over Pokemon).

On another note, I wonder just how many Wells Fargo employees there are in Pepper Pike who live on Chagrin Boulevard and why local media haven't been all over that bit?



Posted by Jeff Hess on November 19, 2011 09:12 AM