Huffpost Black Voices
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Hermene Hartman Headshot

The Making of Herman Cain

Posted: Updated:
HERMAN CAIN GLORIA ALLRED
Getty

Herman Cain has captured America's imagination. He has demonstrated leadership in this day where it is lacking.

Doesn't matter whether you agree with him or not, he has put forth a clear direction. Doesn't matter whether you like it or not, it is clear.

How many times have you not agreed with your boss, but kept on working for the promotion or next pay raise?

His program on taxing the American public 9-9-9 leads the political discussion. He has made politicians respond to his vision, with criticism or with new plans of their own. He has offered leadership.

His commercials are edgy, unusual and off-center. You watch them and think: was that a joke or was that serious? They are not picture-perfect pretty. There is the man with a cigarette, just like the one you see in the bar or standing outside in the wintertime, grabbing that smoke. He is Mr. Ordinary. Not pretty, but real.

Commercial Campaign Marketing
The video has received over one million hits on YouTube, and Cain has yet to spend a dollar on a TV commercial. The spot was so outlandish that the newsmakers made it news and then the website managers made it viral. Smart marketing.

And there are more. They are so outlandish that Good Morning America made Cain's commercial spots a news report, which is where I saw all of them.

There is the western. The cowboy riding in the wilderness and out of nowhere comes a cowboy with yellow roses to save the day. The Marlboro male types will like that one.

And then there is the one with the runaway train. The train is moving, catch it if you can, but the train is moving, moving fast and then a smiling Cain image appears with his hat. The messages are fuzzy, but Cain comes to save the day.

The commercials are touchy. They are not traditional political commercials. They fit today's "pop" world. Cain's marketing background is at play. The commercials have a resounding message; Cain is not an ordinary guy; he is here to save the day.

The Man And The Politician
Herman Cain is a non-traditional/traditional man. He does not come from Harvard. His parents were working-class. He climbed the social and corporate ladder from a solid southern family base. A good old boy's American story.

So, what's up with Cain? His poll ratings are up. He is the business leader who knows how to drill down on a problem and offer a solution. He is not hesitant to say he misspoke or that he didn't have all of the information. He has authored a book and I am sure it will make the best-seller's list; after all of the air time, how could it not.

Cain is a Morehouse man. He says, call me a Black man, because my heritage was slavery. In this alone, he distinguishes himself from President Obama, the first African-American commander-in-chief. White America may not get it, but black America will bite.

We are witnessing the making of a candidate, not any old candidate, but a Black candidate manufactured to run against the sitting black man in the White House, who three years ago offered the world promise and hope. He has disappointed.

So the Republicans are contrasting indecision to decision; Harvard to Morehouse; elite to average, Democratic to Republican. Cain is up for the occasion.

The 2008 mantra, "Yes we can," now moves to "Yes we Cain." How clever.

The contrast of Cain to Obama is that the issue was made of Obama being the first African American to become president and his mixed parentage. He played past it. His family and skin color speaks volumes.

With Cain, racial reference is subtle and not readily discussed. He is forthright in his racial richness, but it is not an issue. For example, where were you, Mr. Cain, during the civil rights movement? Is this the test? Barack answered that he was six years old and missed it. Cain says he was working.

Cain is being postured as one of the good old boys, who just happens to be of a darker hue.

What I recognize in rising to the top of the political ladder, be you Republican or Democrat, is write a book about your life, so that the public can reference your life.

If you want to crossover, don't talk about race; let the assumptions be made, whatever they are. Have a program that all Americans can embrace and your Blackness become an "immigrant" story.

And most importantly, show no favorites to the brotherhood. Don't suggest special program to "minorities" and have no "urban" agendas. This is a sure way to rise to the top. Forget about being Black or African American; it doesn't matter.

Cain wins no matter what. While we might not be looking at the making of a president, we are definitely looking at the making of Cain.

He might be the Vice President on the Republican ticket after his 15 minutes of fame passes. He might be the president of a big company. He might land on corporate boards. He might become a best-selling author and move to the speaking circuit.

He has taken a page from Sarah Palin's playbook. Come out of obscurity and run like you are real. Trade it in, for books, speaking engagements, and all the cash that comes with that, and then become a political pundit. You win.

At any rate, it is interesting to think that the Republicans could end up with Cain and the Democrats with Obama. Then for sure, for real sure, America becomes a post-racial society in 2012.