...or at least that's what the precipitous decline of GOP candidate Herman Cain's fortunes have resembled over the past month. Cain has gone from the anti-Romney, Tea-Party darling of the GOP to an absolute train wreck in a short time. Riding a wave of popularity, largely due to his catchy 9-9-9 slogan, Cain crested at around the same percentage (25%) in many national polls that GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney has captured almost since beginning his presidential campaign 4 1/2 years ago. Cain even held the lead in several early voting state polls like Iowa and South Carolina. The Cain campaign has been undone primarily by three events.
1) Allegations of sexual harassment against Cain while he was the head of the National Restaurant Association. Even though the campaign was given a 10 day advance notice by the media investigating the story it failed to respond in a coherent manner when the story broke, instead preferring to compare Cain to Clarence Thomas and claim it was a left-wing 'high tech lynching.' Eventually, the campaign had to admit there was some substance to the allegations of at least two of the women who had received cash settlements from the NRA in the late 1990's. That in itself was not enough to bring down the campaign, however.
2) Libya...uh, yeah, Libya. At a meeting with a journalist in Wisconsin (what was he doing in Wisconsin when they don't vote until March?) Cain was asked whether he supported President Obama's policy on Libya...and he looked dumbfounded and couldn't even remember what that policy was. It was sort of similar to Sarah Palin and the Bush Doctrine moment from her 2008 interview with Charlie Gibson. At least Cain didn't say he could see Canada from Wisconsin!
3) The latest allegation is that Cain had a long running affair with Ginger White. She claims it lasted 13 years while he says they were 'just friends.' It appears they were friends with benefits, if she turns out to be credible. Ms. White said she had Cain's personal cell phone number and gave it to a reporter who texted him from her phone and Cain called right away. Oops.
What does any of this mean? Nothing really. Herman Cain was never really running for president and never stood a serious chance of winning. Everybody with the slightest inkling of political knowledge understood that his campaign was about selling books and enriching himself further. To that end, it has worked marvelously. But if the most recent allegations are true, it may cost him his marriage of 43 years. That's a huge price to pay for selling a few meaningless books.
Since at least the early 90's America's elite political class has focused on playing the 'politics of personal destruction' as a way to avoid substantive debates on substantive issues. The media fuels the fire by seeking sensationalist stories devoid of substance and intelligence. Both approaches serve to disengage the mass public and ensure we pay as little attention to politics as possible. Both lead Americans to distrust their government and, in some cases, dislike it. Case in point...recent polls have Congress' approval rating at a mere 9% with the general public. Many Americans believe our governmental institutions have failed. Apart from a commitment to reverse recent trends, it is only a matter of time before they become irrelevant and our democracy is endangered. People who don't trust their government are prone to abolish it. Will the next revolution be called the American Spring?