It is becoming clear that Herman Cain’s 15 minutes of fame are up. So what caused the rise and fall of Cain? The fall is perhaps easier to explain than the rise. While I think he could have survived the fact that he is ignorant about almost anything other than the restaurant business or that he seems to be a creep when it comes to women, the combination of the two was too much even for the Republican party’s crazy base. The relentless mockery has taken its toll. As one could have expected, The Daily Show mined a rich vein of comedy out of Cain’s latest gaffe over Libya. It was brutal.
He is no longer their darling and their new heartthrob is, incredibly, Newt Gingrich. It is surely an indication of how desperate they are and how much they dislike Mitt Romney that they are now pinning their hopes on yet another arrogant blowhard, someone whose candidacy was declared dead just a short while ago and will be dead again soon.
The Republican party primaries are providing further evidence of the reality of the 27% crazification factor, that argues that 27% of the electorate is willing to support even the craziest of candidates or issues. That was roughly the size of the support that Michele Bachman, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain reached before their stars faded and that group looked for a new crazy person to venerate.
But what caused Cain’s rise in the first place? Reader Tim sent along this very amusing clip in which Rachel Maddow marshals the evidence that Herman Cain is a performance artist whose entire campaign was a spoof, and that he kept sending out coded messages that indicated it was all a joke but that we missed them. And this was even before the Libya fiasco. Calling Cain a performance artist could be construed as an insult to genuine performance artists, but in recent days that term has become synonymous with anyone who is pulling a complex prank or hoax. (Incidentally, while I like Rachel Maddow, she is a little too hyper for my style. But I like that fact that she has her own show and presents views and guests that might not get a hearing otherwise.)
Maddow was being facetious (I think). I don’t think Cain started out as a hoax candidacy. I think that he was just another one of those rich former businessmen who are arrogant enough to think that they are really smart and can run the country but did not seriously expect to succeed in their campaign. It likely started out as a vanity project to get him a brief moment of the limelight. I think he may have been truly surprised by the fact that crazy policies that feed the prejudices of the base, delivered with arrogance and condescension, struck a chord with so many party faithful that he started to think he had a serious shot at the nomination, not realizing that slogans only take you so far and that increased prominence brings increased scrutiny. This, coupled with the fact that Republican party’s real power brokers were probably terrified that someone as unelectable as he would get the nomination, resulted in him getting hammered from even those within his party, so that his campaign started taking on water and sinking rapidly. It is noticeable that Republican party stalwarts, and this includes Fox News, did not rush to provide Cain with a full-throated defense, a sure sign that they want him gone.
Conversely, Romney has been saying all manner of contradictory and bizarre things and yet he has escaped any serious criticism from the Republican establishment commentariat. The Republican party leadership clearly wants Romney, reckoning correctly that he will advance oligarchic interests and has the best chance of winning in 2012. It will be interesting to see how they undermine the Gingrich boomlet.
The party leadership doesn’t really care about Romney’s dubious stands on social values that the crazy base of the party really cares about and has resulted in the latter creating a movement that is dedicated to preventing Romney from getting the nomination. The person who must be most chagrined is Tim Pawlenty. He would have been the most credible not-Romney who could have got the support of both the party leadership and the crazies except that he was knocked out by the idiotic and absurdly unrepresentative Ames, Iowa straw poll right at the beginning.
So it is time to say farewell to the Herminator.