Contemporary U.S. culture suffers a special kind of irony, one that could hardly have predicted. For years, conservative Washington has been considered a bastion of racism, and in those same years conservatives have contended that it is about facts and merit. No more, no less. The United States is in its third year under the tenure of its first black president. An event that many thought would never happen in the first place, never mind the possibility of the challenging nominee being another black man from the "racist party."
What you hear from some conservative commentators, that this is a "high-tech lynching" of an "uppity black conservative" and the media punishing him for being "black while conservative," is ludicrous and boring. Ludicrous not only because you can't for a minute tell me that Politico wouldn't have run the story if it had been Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Ron Paul or Rep. Michele Bachmann, but because the use of language with such negative connotation and history is imprudent and unnecessary.
The backlash Herman Cain is receiving has little to do with the fact that he's a Republican, nothing to do with his skin color and everything to do with the fact that the media in the age of Twitter report first and ask questions later. It must be radical, sensational and, most important, it must go viral. And where it's not ludicrous, it's boring, because we already know the media are biased against Republicans. So what? We've been saying that for years.
But why bring about the question of race? Don't Republicans hate it when they oppose Democrats "of color" on policy or make a personal accusation — and the first response of that Democrat "of color" and his/her defenders is to say, "You must be a racist." Don't Republicans hate that? Well, why is the first response from some conservatives that this must have to do with Mr. Cain's race? That makes them guilty of the same race-baiting we accuse Democrats of. Let's stick to the issue.
The real issue is, why are Mr. Cain's responses so inconsistent and incoherent? Most Republican voters find it hard to believe he didn't remember details about a significant accusation only 12 years old. Put yourself in his shoes. You're successful. You have ambitions. You have a career and a reputation. And two women make accusations that could end it all today. You're telling me you wouldn't have that episode seared into your brain and soul for the rest of your life? So Republicans are right to have questions about all this and wonder why he's having so much trouble remembering.
Republicans are a forgiving group. If he'd been clear, consistent and open about this from the beginning and if the accusations truly were baseless, he'd be fine and it would be yesterday's news. Especially if it turns out this wasn't about sex or infidelity but was instead about inappropriate office humor, as Mr. Cain is suggesting.
Let's be frank here: This is an incident that was settled and really should not have any bearing on the campaign.
Mr. Cain should have said it was an incident that occurred and denied any wrongdoing. He should have said upfront that it was the restaurant association's view, not his, to settle. If he had, this media frenzy would have been over with before it began.
With the state that the American economy is in, we cannot afford to be distracted from the issues. Getting people back to work, more effective corporate governance, solving the housing crisis and protecting our interests (domestically and overseas) are what we should focus on. This debacle is merely another attempt by political pundits to stop an intelligent conversation about real issues. We cannot continue to have the tail wag the dog at the expense of the American people.
What Mr. Cain stands for are basic principles for the electorate: smaller government, private-sector accountability and less taxpayer burden. My concern is that Americans turn on the television to get their opinions on who won a debate and who is leading the polls without considering the information and drawing their own conclusions.
Mr. Cain represents a new point of view, contrary to the masses, a "black man" having a principled credible following of conservative Americans. I applaud him as he shares the views of many black Americans and has the conviction to state them publicly.
Let's not stop the conversation now. It is just too important.
• Armstrong Williams, author of the 2010 book "Reawakening Virtues," is on Sirius Power 128 from 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside. Read his content on RightSideWire.com.