According to the most recent CBS/New York Times poll, Herman Cain is currently the most popular candidate to win the Republican primary, despite the insistence from even the most stalwart conservative news outlets (such as National Review) that the only frontrunners are Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. On the heels of an impressive Florida straw poll landslide, Cain's surging trend has continued despite intense skepticism over his 9-9-9 tax plan and his recent gaffes concerning things like electrified border fences and parents having the right to choose an illegal abortion. Indeed, as a politician, Herman Cain lacks a lot of experience, polish, and discipline, but as they start to tune in to the pre-election news and learn more about him, conservatives around the country are responding well to Cain. He is sunny, intriguing, and personable, far more so than any other primary candidate, so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that he's garnering support.
Still, insist the experts, news addicts, and Fox News contributors, he is doomed to fail, because he can't compete with the fundraising, endorsement-winning, multi-million dollar campaign juggernauts of established Republicans like Romney and Perry. Many suspect this whole campaign has been a publicity stunt--a glorified book tour--because as the primary calendar kicks into high gear, Cain's spending time in states like Tennessee rather than Iowa or New Hampshire. It does seem suspicious, and one can't help but scratch one's head upon learning how small Cain's campaign really is, how little money he has raised, and how few endorsements he has secured. He is a career businessman, whose only real experience with running for political office comes from a failed U.S. Senate bid in 2004 (though he did technically run for president for a few weeks in 2000 and he was the senior economic advisor for the Dole/Kemp campaign in 1996). The pundits, despite citing Romney's business experience as a positive, are horrified that people would even consider choosing a man who has never held public office, certain that a lack of experience in Washington will spell the imminent collapse of the American political system.
I'm not going to insult your intelligence by arguing that Herman Cain is a perfect presidential nominee. I have my reservations about him, but I don't buy these arguments from the political class that a man (or woman) can't pick himself up from his bootstraps, go to Washington, and use his innate talents to run the country. It seems to me to be a perfectly American ideal that somebody like Herman Cain can run for president. Where in the Constitution does it say we must elect professional politicians to high office? Where in the Constitution does it say that a candidate isn't allowed to be popular unless they can raise twenty million dollars a quarter? I am convinced that Cain's business experience qualifies him for the presidency, or at least makes him far more likely to succeed than a community organizer from Chicago who spent two years as a U.S. Senator running for president. I think Cain understands how to put the right people in the right places to advise him, and I have no doubt that he is a natural leader who is capable of examining a problem and deciding on an appropriate solution. With the mess we have in Washington today, I think the fact that Cain hasn't spent his adult life on the steps of Capitol Hill is a feather in his cap, not a disqualifying concern.
At least Democrats won't be able to argue that Republicans want to take away our pizza
Besides, it's not hard to examine his views and opinions on a wide range of political issues, as the man has written several books and columns, not to mention the fact that he was a talk radio host. People who complain that we have no way of gauging him aren't looking hard enough and don't put a lot of faith in their ability to read others. Much is made these days on the concept of "authenticity" in a politician, and I would be hard-pressed to name a politician who feels as authentic as Herman Cain. This is why his gaffes seem to increase his popularity rather than decrease it, because he is proving that his every word isn't carefully orchestrated by focus groups, teleprompters, and speech writers. He is unafraid to speak his mind, even when it gets him into trouble from time to time. Even though his defense of his recent comments about abortion is painfully muddled, for example, one can't argue with his track record of being emphatically pro-life.
Of course, he is pro-life, which while it might help him in Iowa, should put him in the negative column for me, as I am absolutely pro-choice. The truth is that there are some fundamental political principles about which Herman Cain and I disagree. However, if my disagreements with a candidate on any given subject automatically disqualified them from my support, the only person I could ever support for president would be myself, even though I know I'd make a terrible president. There is no such thing as a perfect candidate who will agree with you on every single issue, not even close. If a candidate had to be pro-choice for me to root for them, the only Republican presidential nominee I could get behind would be Gary Johnson, and his chance of winning the Republican primary is about as good as Bill Clinton's chance of being the next pope. Even the Libertarian standard-bearer, Ron Paul, is pro-life.
As for the 9-9-9 plan, I have heard lots of compelling arguments against it, not the least of which is the snowball's chance in Hell it has of passing Congress. Still, even with all the baggage, Cain's idea of throwing out the current tax code and starting again from scratch is a welcome notion, even if it comes with an unpopular national sales tax. I love the idea of a transparent tax code, and I am not convinced by those who argue that there's nothing stopping a future administration from raising an established national sales tax. From a purely logical standpoint, there is nothing standing in the way of the current president enacting a 20% national sales tax right this minute, except of course for Congress and the American people. If the tax is out there for all to see, it would be impossible to raise it without serious political consequences. Besides, no administration or Congress can tie the hands of future politicians to do what they will, so an argument based on such a hypothetical is ludicrous on its face. The next time one of Cain's competitors asks him what is stopping a national sales tax from being raised by future presidents, I wish Cain would retort, "What's stopping them from raising a national sales tax after your hypothetical administration?"
To which the only logical reply is, "Oh, right..."
When it comes time to vote, I am a firm believer in voting with your conscience and choosing the person you think could do the most good. As much as I agree with Ron Paul on his economic plans, for example, I don't actually believe he would do the most good as president because of his downright suicidal wish to end all military involvement around the world as quickly as possible and to do exactly nothing about Iran. From a certain point of view, the choices we face in a democratic society come down to the best of all evils, to deciding which candidate you dislike the least. It's easy to find something wrong with each candidate, including the one you ultimately pick (assuming you pick one at all), so you have to be willing to compromise to a certain extent, no matter how great the candidate is. This is why I'm rooting for Herman Cain, because he is the candidate I like the most, or rather the one I dislike the least.
I certainly like him more than Mitt Romney. Romney is the slick embodiment of a career politician, a man who doesn't let a day go by without modifying his opinions for political expedience. No matter how emphatically he tries to turn his Massachusetts healthcare plan into a states rights issue, he cannot duck from the rock solid fact that Romneycare is a primordial version of Obamacare. He can try to argue that the individual mandate is unconstitutional for the Federal government, but that argument doesn't lessen how intensely troubling it is that he thinks an individual mandate is perfectly kosher on the state level. So if I should be disturbed that Cain's lack of political experience makes him unpredictable as a president, how should I feel about Romney, a man whose political positions are murky, inconsistent, and evanescent at best?
As for Rick Perry, my second-least favorite candidate behind Rick Santorum, there's not enough room on this website for me to adequately express my reservations about a President Perry. If the Republicans nominate Rick Perry to be their presidential nominee, it will prove once and for all that the Republican Party learned nothing from the last decade. Happily, despite the constant cheerleading from mainstream media, Perry's poll numbers aren't jumping. His two terrible debate performances weren't improved by a third in which he demonstrated how petty and political he is. They demonized him for his stance on immigration, so he jumped on Romney for allegedly hiring an illegal once, coming across as a petulant child screaming, "Oh yeah?!"
Expect lots of comparisons like this if Perry is the nominee
What really shocks me about Perry is how in love with him the newsmakers seem to be. Before his first debate, they promised that he's unbeatable as a debater, that his "counter-punch" is lethal. Three debates later, and they're touting this new theory that debates just aren't Perry's strong suit, completely ignoring what they were saying about him a month ago. Pundits are continuing to believe that this race will somehow come down to Romney and Perry, even though Perry's popularity is south of fellow Texan Ron Paul and showing no signs of getting better. They like to talk about "electability," but they don't talk about how easy it will be for the Democrats to paint Rick Perry as George W. Bush on steroids.
Sufficed to say--and without getting into my opinions of the rest of the field--there is only one candidate I feel excited about voting for, and that is Herman Cain. Sure, he's unpolished, and sure, I don't agree with him about everything, but I like him and believe he could do more good for this country than any other candidate, including President Obama. I cannot vote for him in the primary, as I am not a registered Republican, but I will be voting in next year's election, which makes me one of those independants both parties are courting. My vote is one of the hotly contested ones, so if the Republicans want to pick a guy an independant like me can vote for, Cain is a far better choice than those others.