Herman Cain, The Unusual Candidate
Herman Cain is the unusual politician, who so far has set his own rules when it comes to running a political campaign. Who else would name his book; This is Herman Cain!: My Journey to the White House? Cain's biggest asset is that he has many varied careers that most politicians would only dream of. He has moved through the corporate ladder beginning with Coka Cola with stops at Pillsbury, Burger King and Godfather's Pizza before moving to lead the National Restaurant Association. He's had a stint at the Federal Reserve, a talk radio program, and he's the author of a few books. (I should point out that he turn Godfather's Pizza around, so the guy knows something about turning a bad situation around.)
Why the Cain boomlet, and how long it will last? Good question since every Republican had their day in the sun only to come crashing back down when a second look merited it. Right now the most popular Republicans are those not in the race, and of course that most feared of candidates, Generic Republican! The problem is that one has to run a real live candidate and not Mr. Generic and certainly, there is nothing generic about Herman Cain. I once observed that watching Cain give a speech is like being part of a revival with even the most cynical politicians yelling hallelujah, and it is not often that you have political pros and activists start whooping when Cain gets going full blast. Just to hear him simply say, “In America, everyone has a right to succeed!” is worth the admission.
Cain is not a politician, and there are times that he reminds us of that. During a debate, Cain answered a question on foreign affairs by simply saying he would put together experts to deal with problems. He acted the part of a businessman gets the experts together and designs a solution, but in foreign affairs, most voters would feel comfortable with a President who already has an idea of how to handle world problems before he becomes President. Cain managed to get away with this just as he did when he did not know the true meaning of the right of Return for Palestinians as part of the Israeli-Palestinians peace negotiations. He simply admitted, “I don’t know everything.” Somehow, I could never imagining Romney getting away with that answer, but Cain has so far managed to do that. I suspect that one reason is that Cain is a likeable person, and there is a refreshing Horatio Alger aspect to his life that people like. After being governed by supposedly the smartest President we ever had, many voters might simply find it refreshing that there is a politician who is simply modest enough to admit, "Hey I don’t know everything, but I do know what needs to be known when running a country.” As a Indian writer once observed, modesty is a virtue in a Democracy, and Cain is a modest fellow who knows that there is much to be learned and understands that there are certain things that a President, or for that matter, a government can accomplish in a market economy that sees billions of transaction on a daily basis.
Modesty is one trait that people admire about Cain, another is the personal connection Cain has with his audience. He knows marketing, and his 9-9-9 is marketing genius for it is a formula that anyone can understand. 9% tax on corporation, 9% for individuals and 9% for a national sales tax. The problem with the proposal is that it will be attack viciously as a tax increase on the middle class; won’t raise enough revenues, and it is part of a more complicated plan to switch America to a national sales tax to replace the income tax. The first objection is that the left will simply run ads that the middle class will pay a sales tax on top of their income tax. This is a tactic that the left and Democrats have used against Fair Tax proponents. In the 2004 South Carolina election, Jim DeMint was attacked for proposing a sales tax on top of an income tax (something that is not true since DeMint's plan, like Cain's support for the Fair Tax, replaces the income tax with a sales tax, but that didn't stop the Democrats from running the ad. They even ran this ad in Iowa against Republicans, whether they have supported a Fair Tax or not. The Cain 9-9-9 proposal does in fact propose a sales tax on top of the income tax and the left will remind everyone that the sales tax is a regressive tax; nor does this proposal have solid conservative support since many conservative questions the wisdom of adding a sales tax upon an income tax since they view that it eventually will lead to a tax increase. (Cain does include provision to add supermajorities to pass tax increases as a means to decrease Congress's propensity to increase taxes.)
Cain needs to take his proposal beyond the marketing 9-9-9 by showing that lower flat tax combined with a sales tax will lead to a collection of more revenues as opposed to the present system. Yet the proposal does make sense since it does broaden the tax base while ensuring that even GE will pay taxes and Warren Buffet's poor secretary will pay the same rate as her boss.
Another aspect of the Cain's candidacy is that he has dispensed with the big staffs and depends upon small group of cadres. He treats his campaign as a startup company, hires staff who can multi task and add pieces as the campaign raises more money. Unlike other campaigns who hire the expensive consultants, Cain depended upon his own instinct and that of his staff, including his campaign manager, Mark Block.
Mark Block is one of those campaign managers, who has cut his teeth at retail politics in Wisconsin and thinks outside the box; just like his boss. Both men view 2012 as that unusual transformational campaign that calls for different tactics. While other campaigns fight the last elections just as many Generals fight the last war, these two have developed an insurgent campaign to last over the long haul. Cain has transferred his marketing skills to politics and his experience as a talk radio host has exposed him to the common folks; giving him the experience of doing retail politics via radio.
Cain may not win, but he has done something else; he has shown that a Black conservative can succeed on a national level, supplementing the local successes of South Carolina's Tim Scott or Florida's Allen West. This could bode well for Republicans as Cain’s successes shows other black conservatives that they can succeed, plus it will encourage Republicans to start promoting their ideas to the minority community.