I ordinarily like Chris Cillizza’s writing well enough, but “What Herman Cain Meant” missed the mark early on. The rest of his article may have its merits, but I take exception to the following rather striking logical fallacy.
“That Cain collapsed in a heap of allegations of sexual impropriety and titanic levels of muddled messaging — all of which culminated in his decision to suspend his campaign Saturday — is proof that an unconventional approach to politics can only get you so far.”
So, flipped over, the proof that an unconventional approach to politics can only get you so far is that Cain collapsed in a heap of allegations and poor messaging. It’s only because he was unconventional, you see, that his real or alleged past caught up with him. It was his lack of conventionality that led him to spout one inane, idiotic thing after another. Forget mixed messaging, even if he’d had “fixed” messaging, he’d have just sounded like a consistent moron.
If the allegations are true (we may never know, whatever we may feel about them), the alleged behaviors are all too conventional. If true, nothing about sexual harassment, sexual assault, or philandering has anything to do with taking an unconventional approach to politics. As for garden variety stupidity, that hardly needs allegations. He was his own best witness on that front. This, too, is far too conventional, and also has absolutely nothing to do with taking an unconventional approach to politics. No relation, no causation.
Let’s not muddle the messaging by suggesting Cain failed because of unconventionality. He broke under the weight of his own conventionalism. Even innocent of the allegations, some of his most damning character flaws showed through very clearly in his responses. His only failure in “unconventionalism” was lack of the necessary political savvy to slap the right lipstick on the right pig at the right time. Sadly, we have too much of that conventionality at hand. If only more candidates would collapse from such a lack of savvy.
I’m sure there’s an excellent article waiting to be written about the demise of Cain’s candidacy. This wasn’t it.
Portrait by Paul Szep.