Herman Cain and the Cult of Self-Sufficiency

ANALYSIS

  on October 10 2011 12:42 PM
Herman Cain
Republican presidential Candidate Herman Cain pulled a major upset victory Saturday in the Florida Straw Poll, handily beating Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Reuters

Presidential candidate Herman Cain has a simple message for people disillusioned with inequality in America: Stop whining.

On issues ranging from racial prejudice to economic inequity, Cain has invoked his own ascendance as a template for success and suggested that those who fall short have only themselves to blame. The Occupy Wall Street protestors are incensed at the growing gap between rich and poor, and they believe that gulf is expanding because of a sytem rigged to benefit the wealthy. Cain, the former Godather's Pizza CEO who is worth between $2.9 million and $6.6 million, dismissed those grievances.

Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks, if you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself! Cain said. It is not a person's fault because they succeeded, it is a person's fault if they failed. And so this is why I don't understand these demonstrations and what is it that they're looking for.

Similarly, Cain professes bewilderment at the idea that racism still represents an obstacle for minorities in America. Once again drawing on the example of himself, he has suggested that African Americans have been brainwashed into not being open-minded and rejecting conservativism. In a recent interview with CNN, he acknowledged that blacks disproportionately face high unemployment and poor schools. But he maintained that struggling African Americans, like the Occupy Wall Street protesters, are essentially lazy.

They weren't held back because of racism, Cain said. People sometimes hold themselves back because they want to use racism as an excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve.

Cain's swift rise in the polls has been buoyed by the support of voters who are ideologically aligned with the Tea Party, and his emphasis on self-sufficiency helps explain why. The Tea Party's guiding principle is the conviction that the government must be limited as much as possible, a sentiment that Texas governor Rick Perry articulated in his campaign announcement when he promised to make government as inconsequential to your lives as possible.

Similarly, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) launched her campaign by denying that government can make a better life for all of us and heralded a time when people relied on ourselves and not our government for help. That belief underpins the Tea Party. It informs the virulent opposition to a federal health care overhaul, an attempt to guarantee universal healthcare that Republican presidential candidates have uniformly condemnded as an infringement on individual liberty.

That belief also animates Cain. He has advocated diluting or eliminating the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency. He has called the current tax code the 21st century version of slavery, and he would free businesses from economic bondage with a plan that would slash the current corporate tax rate from its current level of 35 percent to 9 percent.

The same economic plan would collapse tax brackets into a flat rate of 9 percent for everyone. That contrasts sharply with calls to raise taxes on the wealthy emanating from Democrats, not to mention Occupy Wall Street. Cain has denounced that proposal as government engineered class warfare. For Cain, the path to prosperity does not run through government but through the unfettered individual.

You can contact the reporter at j.white@IBTimes.com

 

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