Thursday, November 10, 2011

Shades of Black

A couple of days ago I was having a conversation with a friend wherein I contrasted the apparent disparity between the wholehearted embrace that's greeted Herman Cain by (some on) the right with the abject disgust these same folks hold for Barack Obama. Far more than disagreement with his policies (which I myself have no shortage of, just to be clear), the venom expressed toward the latter crosses over into the questioning of his very legitimacy -- as both the president and as an American -- and this illegitimacy is couched in any number of blind alleys such as Birtherism, Socialism, or what-have-you.

What's more perplexing, from the perspective of strict conservative dogma if nothing else, is that Obama has seemingly done everything "right" to succeed (insofar as we define succes in our society). Academically, personally, and politically, he's excelled by keeping his nose clean and pressed tightly to the grindstone. But then, per the en vogue invective of right wing opinion-shapers like Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh, all that is simply not good enough, and never will be. Given a comparison between Obama and an economically uninformed, socially maladroit, and politically underwhelming candidate whose character, in the face of recent news, is at least in question, Cain nonetheless remains the clear choice for conservatives.

Why? Because, per Coulter, "our blacks are better than their blacks."

In other words, ideology and dogma hold so much sway over conservative orthodoxy that reams of political, fiscal, and social dimensions can be boiled down to one ridiculous point of comparison. While this is ignorant on its face, I also think it constituted an incredibly lucid bit of accidental truth-telling on the part of the showboating Coulter (who, true to form, dug in her heels even further when called out), and it helps illustrate some of the ideological mindset that has the far right so readily commis around a candidate as obviously flawed as Cain. That Coulter provided us with an unplanned peek behind the curtain into the vitriol that drives the conservative thought machine is  also propounded by Corey Robin, who elaborated in his post on the subject at Al Jazeera:
The conservative vision of ascent is rougher around the edges. The outsider who becomes a right-wing insider must not sail to power on his SAT's; he must claw his way to power like Tony Soprano. He has to show that he understands the darkness of the American Dream, that you have to fight - and fight dirty - for your position. 
That's why Coulter formulates the virtues of Cain as she does: unlike black liberals or Democrats, the black conservative doesn't roll into his opinions; he fights his way into them. He doesn't go with the flow; he stands in the crashing surf, forcing the waves to break. That is his claim to power, his entitlement to rule.
It's a pretty on-point analysis, I think, and well worth a read in its entirety. In the long run, I suppose the real test of how much sway such thinking holds over the current configuration of the Republican base lies in whether Cain weathers his current bout of troubles to improbably emerge with the nomination (which, contrary to his own finger-pointing at a presser on Tuesday, I have to think the Democrats are secretly very much hoping for). Based on the reaction of the Republican crowd at last night's debate when Cain was quizzed on his troubles, as well as the amount of money he's raised since the scandal broke, it's sure not looking good so far.

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