POST BY JORDAN DELOATCH
A few pundits are making the bold prediction that we will elect a second black president in 2012. Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has risen out of the murky depths of the field of obscure Republican candidates to become one of the three frontrunners, tied or ahead of Mitt Romney in some polls. If Herman Cain were to win the Republican primary, it would be the first time the candidates on the tickets for both major parties were black. This would seem to favor the Republican Party, because it would have the potential to divide black voters across the aisle and perhaps decrease the huge support the Democratic Party has in the black community. There’s one huge problem with that statement: Herman Cain has demonstrated that he is unable and unwilling to reach out to the black community.
There’s a reason black people tend to go Democratic (and it’s not because we’re “brainwashed,” to use Mr. Cain’s term). It’s because the Democratic Party has been better to us, especially since the Civil Rights movement. The Civil Rights Act was championed by a Johnson and opposed by Goldwater, for example. Since then, the Democrats have become more willing to challenge the status quo while the Republicans are content with the present system, which leaves wealthy white men holding all the cards. In other words, the Democrats are more willing to listen to the concerns of the black community; in return, the black community votes overwhelmingly Democratic.
But it’s not just the fact that Herman Cain is a Republican. His own policies will harm the black community in revolutionary new ways. The most obvious example is his 9-9-9 tax plan. I’d love this as a pizza special, but as a plan to revamp the tax code, it will fall flat. For many Americans—that is, poor Americans—this would represent a tax increase rather than a tax cut. Guess who benefits most from the plan? The rich, who would have to pay as little as a quarter of what they used to in income tax. Unfortunately, you’re going to find a lot more black Americans on the poorer end of the spectrum than is their share. Meanwhile, sales taxes across the nation will skyrocket since we’ll have to pay local, state, and national sales taxes. In Wake County, NC, where I live, that would mean that sales taxes would jump from 6.75% to 15.75%. (If I may borrow the phrase Mr. Cain was so fond of in last Tuesday’s debate, I’m now paying for both apples and oranges.) For a hypothetical family that spends $100 a week on groceries, 9-9-9 is an increase of $468 a year. Now throw in every other expense that a family’s going to have under this elevated sales tax—and throw that on top of the fact that these same families are also getting hit with a bigger income tax. Most black families will take a look at this proposal and realize that it would be awful for themselves and for their community.
That’s why Herman Cain won’t get the black vote. He, like many others, is irritated with the wealth gap, but he turns his irritation toward the victims of the system for not working hard enough. I’d like to hear him say that to single mothers who are working two jobs to put food on the table for their kids. He fails to take into account the fact that the rich (and mostly white) people are the ones who have influenced government policy to make themselves richer, or that the poorest neighborhoods tend to have the worst schools. He doesn’t seem to understand the fact that the recession has harmed minorities worse than it’s harmed white people. Perhaps he doesn’t know that equal opportunity is taking its sweet time showing up.
What he obviously doesn’t know is the irony of his messages. He says that black voters are brainwashed, yet he fails to treat them with the respect that they get from the Democrats. He’s the Republicans’ most prominent envoy to the black community right now, and he’s delivering the message that Republicans think that black people are lazy and entitled. Even if we ignore the distortions of fact that are required to make that thought, you can never expect to win over a group of people by insulting them. It’s especially counterproductive when that group is hurting from factors beyond their control—especially when you try to tell them that it’s all their fault. It’s no wonder that the members of the black community vote so overwhelmingly Democratic if this is how a black Republican is going to treat us.