GOP Presidential Candidate Herman Cain, the only conservative black man running for 2012, built his campaign on the idea that race doesn’t matter in the Republican Party. Seemingly, however, liberal pundits argue that when the media reports on allegations not in Cain’s favor, race is very important.
Almost immediately after Cain was accused of sexual harassment during his tenure as CEO of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, Cain played the race card. Cain’s supporters began calling the attacks a “high-tech lynching,” a phrase made popular during Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings. Thomas, like Cain, is a black conservative, and his reputation was tainted by allegations of sexual misconduct which later turned out to be false.
Cain himself told Charles Krauthammer, a political pundit on Fox News, that he believes the mainstream media is attacking him on these sexual allegations because he is a “strong, black conservative.” He followed up that statement, however, by saying that he does not have any evidence to support that claim.
In the Krauthammer interview, Cain also added: “Relative to the left I believe race is a bigger driving factor. I don’t think it’s a driving factor on the right.”
These statements are almost in contrast to what Cain said earlier on the campaign trail, prior to the allegations.
“I don’t believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way,” he said on the campaign trial, according to CNN. In this previous statement, he seemed to dismiss the destructive existence of racism on both sides of the political aisle.
Now, however, he appears to be saying that racism exists, but more so on the political left. If this is indeed what Cain meant when he said racism is a “bigger driving factor” on the left, then many pundits consider him to be making the same racial divisive statements that the political right accused Obama of making during the 2008 campaign.
Cain is not the only one who may be accused of making divisive racial remarks. Political pundit Ann Coulter also called the Cain attacks “lynching” and went on to make a distinction that blacks on the right were “better than” blacks on the left.
In her book, Demonic, Coulter decries Democrats who, in her opinion, unfairly use the race card on their political opponents. She writes:
"Just as fire seeks oxygen, Democrats seek power, which is why they will always be found championing the mob whether the mob consists of Democrats lynching blacks or Democrats slandering the critics of Obamacare as racists."
Based on these two contradictory statements, it appears that Coulter allows for two different standards when using the race card: it’s justified if the right does it; it’s political posturing when the left does it.
However, not everyone on the right agrees with the race strategy.
"I think we need to get past the language of race on both sides," Condoleezza Rice, who succeeded Colon Powell as President George W. Bush's secretary of state, told Sean Hannity on Fox News in a recent Tuesday. Rice went on to say that she is “not a fan of playing the race card.”
"Why is the first response from some conservatives that this must have to do with Cain's race? That makes them guilty of the same race-baiting we accuse Democrats of," Armstrong Williams, a black conservative commentator, told The Associated Press.
Cain has dropped a few percentage points in national polls since the allegations aired. Previously, he was a couple percentage points ahead of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Now, however, a USA Today/Gallup Survey released on Monday reveals that the two are tied for the lead in the presidential race, each garnering 21 percent of support from Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.