Tea Party and the Right  
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The GOP's 'My Best Friend Is Black' Strategy

In a pitiable field of 2012 GOP presidential nominees, Herman Cain has found a way to stand out from the pack by learning to play the "black best friend" to the GOP.

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Herman Cain routinely emphasizes his racial identity as a black conservative. In fact, Cain has gone so far as to suggest that he is a " real” black man compared to Barack Obama, who is apparently some type of black imposter. 

It naturally follows that one must ask: What type of black man is Herman Cain modeling for his conservative, right-wing public?

Apparently, to Cain, a real black man is an  apologist for white racism who tells conservatives that they are always innocent of such charges—despite the prima facie evidence to the contrary. For Cain, a real black man  makes light of Jim Crow and tells white audiences that segregated water fountains were not that bad because “the water tastes the same.” A real black man apparently supports the Koch brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity and  its efforts to stop school desegregation.

Real black men in  Herman Cain’s world abuse the memory of their ancestors, as well as the twin legacies of chattel slavery and the hellish transatlantic slave trade by routinely suggesting that  African Americans who do not support the Republican Party are on a plantation, and that  black conservatives are somehow heroic “freedom fighters” and “runaway” slaves.

And perhaps most disturbingly, for Herman Cain a real black man is also a person  who channels the radically progressive vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to support onerous policies that would destroy the social safety net and suggest there should be a new Civil Rights movement in this country whose goal should be to free America from Barack Obama’s “tyrannical rule.”

In sum, Herman Cain’s “real black man” does not challenge power, never rocks the boat, and is complicit with the forces of white racism--all the while validating a delusional, white conservative version of American history (and playing the fantasy role of what some white folks want to imagine black personhood and humanity to be).

Herman Cain’s campaign is a curiosity that speaks to the bizarre (yet nonetheless utterly predictable) white backlash that has greeted the Age of Obama. As one more act in the theater of the absurd that is the New Right Tea Party GOP, at present there is a belief held by some that white  people are being oppressed by a virulent strain of reverse-racism, one that is a greater social problem than any of the historical discrimination that people of color have experienced in the United States.

There is a telling moment at the end of Herman Cain's  recently released campaign video where he smiles and embraces his public. Cain, a black dot in a sea of white humanity, wades forth and passionately hugs a crying white man in the audience. The symbolic power of that moment is not to be lost. Cain signals in an age of imagined  oppression of white people,  when white folks are “suffering” so badly, that he will make it all go away. By metaphor and extension, Herman Cain is the long sought after black Confederate whose mere existence disproves that the CSA and the Slaveocracy were first and foremost institutions based upon and committed to white supremacy. Ultimately, Cain, an “authentic” black man and conservative, is the path to racial reconciliation and reunion for the America dreamed of by the Republican Party and its Tea Party base.

Herman Cain may be the right man at the right time. If he can ride the early stages of the nomination process out and win a few debates, Cain may very well have replaced the Republican Party’s Southern Strategy with the “my best friend is black” campaign. In a field of true mediocrities that has more in common with a carnival sideshow, Herman Cain’s success may be no small feat. 

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