On Chauncey DeVega's Herman Cain Post
Editor's Note: Yesterday, Chauncey DeVega, an African-American writer, published a post on AlterNet assessing the CPAC performance of Herman Cain, a right-wing potential presidential candidate, in strong and provocative language. Like DeVega, Cain is African American. We understand that some are offended by DeVega's choice of words. We note, however, that most of the consternation generated by DeVega's post has come from right-wing supporters of Cain who have focused on the language of his post and not the substance of his claim that Cain lends cover to reactionary right-wing forces.
Below, DeVega responds to his critics. DeVega published his original post to SpeakEasy, an AlterNet blog to which selected contributors have access for posting unedited material. The platform provided SpeakEasy bloggers allows them to express themselves unabashedly; if that sometimes leads us into uncomfortable territory, we continue to believe the balance tips in favor of vigorous debate.
A Response to Critics of the Herman Cain Post
As a black American with a deep and abiding love and concern for my community and country, I begin with a basic question for my conservative brothers and sisters regarding their political affiliations. Why?
Any reasonable discussion of the role of black conservatives in the Right-wing movement—especially as highlighted by the type of racially reactionary politics embodied by CPAC, the Tea Parties, and the New Right—must seriously consider that question. From the Southern Strategy of Richard Nixon, to the policies of Reagan and his embrace of the image of “the welfare queen,” to the notorious Willie Horton Ad, and including the vitriolic race baiting of the Palin-McCain campaign with its “Real American” meme of 2008, the policies of the Right-wing in this country can in the most polite and generous terms be described as hostile and anathema to the political interests of the working and middle classes, people of color, and the poor.
Now, let's tread a bit carefully: a difference of opinion on what constitutes good policy is not in and of itself a bad thing. Moreover, the diversity of political opinion in the black community is something to be celebrated. It should not be glossed over or run away from.
But Herman Cain has repeatedly spoken before the Koch Brothers funded, John Birch Society-linked groups, including those that are in favor of rolling back such basic Civil Rights era gains as integrated schools. In addition, to raucous applause at the CPAC conference, Herman Cain and Allen West both legitimated a deep hostility to President Obama that is rooted in “birtherism,” and crazed paranoid narratives about tyranny and terror from America’s first black president. As I and others have suggested elsewhere, these are narratives which are at their root premised on a belief that a black man who happens to be President is prima facie and de facto illegitimate.
In my original post, I referred to Herman Cain and other black conservatives as “race minstrels” and “mascots” for the White conservative imagination. I stand by this observation.
Whenever Herman Cain and others have a moment where they can engage in “real talk” among their ideological compatriots or make a public, critical intervention against the obvious racial hostility which drives contemporary American Conservatism, they either stand mute or enable it.
At its core, politics is a projection of our collective fantasies and wishes. What are our hopes, dreams, wants, and desires for our community? How are they embodied by those individuals whom we choose to elect into office and whose causes that we champion?