Why Do Liberals Dislike Herman Cain?

Writing for Reason, Cathy Young tries to understand liberal hostility to Herman Cain:

Whatever his merits or electability, Cain has inevitably drawn attention as the only African-American in the field. And, as a black Republican linked to the Tea Party—a movement often accused of racial animosity toward Barack Obama—he has become a magnet for a peculiar left-wing brand of race-baiting.

To prove her point, Young plucks examples from “The Last Word” – where host Lawrence O’Donnell attacked Cain for his non-participation in the civil rights movement – and various internet forums. The problem, of course, is that neither of those are actually representative of liberals writ large. And I’m sure that if this were a discussion of the Tea Party, Young – who has written in defense of the movement on several occasions – would agree that it’s ridiculous to draw broad conclusions about a political movement from the conduct of a few actors.

That’s not to say that there isn’t liberal hostility toward Herman Cain. There is, and it comes from a familiar source – liberals don’t like Cain because he’s a Republican presidential candidate with deeply regressive views on fiscal policy and social issues. Liberal disdain for Cain is no different than liberal disdain for any other prominent conservative.

Insofar that race has anything to do with it, it’s because Cain presents himself as an arbiter of blackness – hence his attacks on President Obama’s position within the black community – and plays on the racial anxieties of conservatives, going as far as to absolve them of any guilt they might feel. I noted this in my analysis of the Values Voter Summit:

Cain’s speech Friday afternoon was a barnstormer. His loudest applause, a standing ovation, came when he noted his upbringing under Jim Crow, but he told the crowd that he’s never been upset with the treatment of blacks in America. “I have achieved all of my American dreams and then some, because of the great nation, United States of America,” Cain said. “What’s there to be angry about?” he asked.

Cathy Young might not see this as a problem, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a reality.