Monday, May 23, 2011

Rock You Like A Herman Cain

The wife and I went to Herman Cain’s kickoff rally in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park on Saturday. Among my wife's many sensible traits is a predilection to be apolitical, but she’s a became a fan of Cain's thanks to his local radio show, and I've liked Cain since he pulverized a gobsmacked Bill Clinton in that now-famous 1994 "town hall meeting."

Cain was impressive onstage Saturday, and the sizable crowd (announced at 15,000, but my admittedly-amateur guess would place the number at about half that) was an interesting mix. Lots of Tea Party and Fair Tax types, as you’d imagine, but noticeably more black folks than you normally see at Republican events around here. If you made me put a label on the common denominator, I would choose 'emphatically middle class.'

Most of the local media were there in force, including staffers from the station that carried Cain’s radio show, who arrived complete with “Here I Am—Rock You Like A Herman Cain” t-shirts (surely the best independently-offered candidate slogan since “Fred Thompson: Because The Russians Don’t Take A Dump Without A Plan”).

Cain's candidacy has plenty of drawbacks: no money, no experience in government (although many, including Cain himself, view that as a feature), no foreign policy background, considered “fringe” by even heart-in-the-right-place establishment types like Hugh Hewitt, but I have to say, the moment of the announcement itself was surprisingly moving.

Even though I like the guy, and voted for him in the 2002 senate primary, I was still surprised to find myself getting choked up at that point. Where else in the world would the son of a chauffeur and a maid rise to the top of the business world and then push himself, basically by sheer force of personality, into position to have even a marginal shot at the Presidency? Add to that Cain being a black man from the South running as a Republican, and the sheer unlikely-ness of it is at once breathtaking and quite heartening.

It's hard to imagine Cain returning to Centennial Park eighteen-odd months from now to greet a much-larger crowd from a more-elaborate stage, but stranger things have certainly happened. I don’t know how well Cain do from here on out, or even whether his candidacy is a good idea, but a half-hour after noon last Saturday was still a very fine moment.

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