Things have gone from bad to badder for the self-righteous artsy-fartsy elites, who for all their book-learning and self-regard just can’t figure out America.
The Herman Cain phenomenon is the latest puzzlement of those who think only they’re wise enough and entitled enough to tell the rest of us which fork to use. Mr. Cain’s sin is not that he doesn’t have the usual qualifications for president. Barack Obama established the precedent that presidents can attempt to do the job with on-the-job training. Mr. Cain’s sin is that he demonstrates, with considerable eloquence, that the notion that Republicans and other conservatives are mean-spirited bigots is the enormous lie of conventional media wisdom.
The media elites (and some who only want to be among the elite) are beside themselves with rage. Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC interview is so far the most venomous attack on Mr. Cain, whom he painted as Uncle Tom who sat out both the Vietnam war and the civil rights revolution when white folks like Mr. O’Donnell were trying to show black folks how to sing and dance. He even asked Mr. Cain whether he was “grateful” — presumably to the white Lords and Ladies Bountiful like Mr. O’Donnell — when he was finally admitted to full citizenship, entitled to a share of the American dream. An Internet blog called AlterNet, which proclaims itself a builder of “community,” flings more lethal venom, finding “black garbage-pail kids fascinating not because of what they believe, but rather because of how they entertain and perform for their white conservative masters.”
The toxic reaction to Herman Cain’s hearty welcome to Republican and conservative ranks, his spectacular rise in the polling of Republican voters, is a grim preview of what lies ahead. The liberals (“progressives,” as they call themselves this year) are not actually frightened by the prospect of President Cain; they recognize, given the givens, the high improbability of that happening. What irks, galls, frustrates and infuriates the East Coast libsnobs is that the Republican embrace of the pizza man destroys the story line they want to reprise from 2008, that only bigots oppose President Obama.
In fairness to the facts, the diehards on the left tried similar insults of Ronald Reagan, too. When he died, recognized widely as the man who won the Cold War and put the Soviets in their place, they couldn’t even be gracious to the memory of the dead. The tattered remnants of what was left of the counterculture cried tears of baffled frustration that the passage of only a little more than a decade had conferred universal recognition of the remarkable accomplishments of the 40th president.
The Internet sites where embittered lefties gather to trade their toxins — “you show me yours, and I’ll show you mine” — were aglow once more with incendiary hatred. The Gipper was called a “stupid lizard”; one best-selling author said of him: “Killer, coward, con man — Ronald Reagan, goodbye and good riddance.” Ted Rall, a syndicated cartoonist, gloated over the Gipper’s death, certain that he was at last with Old Scratch: “I’m sure he’s turning crispy brown right about now.” A “gay activist” (another aspiring theologian) wrote that Mr. Reagan would “spend eternity in hell” because he was “responsible for 500,000 American AIDS deaths and 10 million worldwide,” which if true would have made the Gipper the studliest and busiest man in the bathhouse.
What turns these unworthies a deep shade of rage red is not that they think Ronald Reagan actually fit any of their mean descriptions, but that he transformed the politics not only of his country, but of the world. Margaret Thatcher got it right when she said more than two decades ago that Mr. Reagan’s greatest accomplishment was that “he has achieved the most difficult of political tasks, changing attitudes and perceptions about what is possible.”
In a much smaller way, Herman Cain has also achieved that most difficult of political tasks. He, too, has changed attitudes and perceptions about what is possible. The most remarkable fact about the Cain phenomenon is that three years after Barack Obama’s incompetence began to reveal itself, the other party, painted in vivid color as benighted and bigoted, demonstrates that it will happily consider a black candidate, too. The prospect of a choice between a black Democrat and a black Republican is the tale that beggars anything Hollywood could imagine.
This reality owes nothing to the media, politicians of any stripe, or to the self-righteous elites. It owes everything to the ordinary men and women of the America that is great because America is good.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.