Is Herman Cain’s Long-Running Minstrel Show Finally at an End?

Herman Cain’s prosperity pimping and 2012 campaign for the Koch brothers’ “Lawn Jockey of the Year Award” may be in its final throes.

His minstrel show took a turn for the worse this week, with new revelations of an extra-marital affair with Ginger White, an Atlanta woman who claims to have had a 13 year-long “friends with benefits” relationship with The Herman Cain. As Cain tried to head off speculation about the affair Monday on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, strangely absent was the singing of one of his favorite hymns. 

According to Cain’s lawyer, this dalliance is no ones’ business, but I beg to differ. When the Republican race for the White House has descended into pledge signings, and public recitations of faith testimonies, then everything is on the table for scrutiny. The GOP has set morality as one of the rules for engagement since the late 1970′s.

From the Republican perspective, there are some things, like divorce, that the party can stomach. Look at Newt Gingrich. He has managed to have three wives, a big Tiffany account, and has finally made it to the top of the polls, topping squeaky-clean Mormon Mitt Romney. But not without bumps in the road: prominent Southern Baptist Richard Land has cautioned Newt to be very apologetic about his past. Still, repentance would suffice.

What Republican voters and the party can’t stomach is the arrogance of a black man who won’t repent.

Cain’s lack of repentance and consistent lying exposes the fact that he isn’t a real card carrying member of the religious right. His black Baptist upbringing has taught him otherwise. I will probably get in trouble for saying this, but the way that black Baptists deal with sexual sin and the way most conservative white evangelicals deal with sexual sin are very different. Compare what happened to Ted Haggard, Jim Baker, or Jimmy Swaggart with Henry Lyons, Eddie Long and Jamal Bryant. Ted Haggard was ousted from his congregation, and went on an odyssey before returning to Colorado Springs to launch a smaller church than his empire at New Life. Lyons went to prison (although that was about sex, but about fraud and larceny). Both Bakker and Swaggart left the Assemblies of God and lost their huge followings. Both men, like Haggard, still pastor small churches. Long paid off his accusers, and is hanging on by a thread at his church. Bryant is still in the pulpit, and Lyons is as well.

What is different? All of the white pastors had to leave their denominations/churches to continue; but the black pastors did not.

Pastor Cain knows this fact well from his Baptist background. The mistake he is making, however, is two-fold: believing that he can lie his way through this, sacrificing his family on the altar of his hubris. Even Gingrich knows how to pull a repentant face when questioned about his past affairs. But Cain’s arrogance won’t wash with the many white voters who he believes “can’t pretend” to like him.

Cain’s inability to acknowledge his foibles speaks to very deep pathology on his part. His love of the media spotlight may cost him his wife and children, yet he continues to use them as a shield to hide his failings. Ginger White’s claims, backed up with receipts and phone records, are compelling. Besides, who would willingly admit that they had sex with THEHermanCain, besides Gloria, his wife, unless it was true.

I sincerely hope that Cain gets a clue this week and drops out of the race for the sake of his family. I could care less who he decides to 999. Allowing his private dalliances to become a public spectacle while pretending to tout “family values” is hypocritical. What’s more, Cain may want to rethink all of the things he said about black people being brainwashed into voting for Democrats. He is going to need the solace of the black church to comfort him when he gets off the campaign trail. Somehow, though, I don’t think his church will be a very comforting place when he returns.

 

Anthea Butler [@AntheaButler] is a Contributing Editor to Religion Dispatches. Her forthcoming book, in’The Gospel According To Sarah: How Sarah Palinin’’s Tea Party Angels are Galvanizing the Religious Right will be out in 2013.