Opinion: Herman Cain undone by sex, not race
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said he would "re-assess" his campaign after charges of an extramarital affair.
December 1st, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Opinion: Herman Cain undone by sex, not race

Editor’s note: Carolyn Edgar is a lawyer and writer in New York City. She writes about social issues, parenting and relationships on her blog, Carolyn Edgar.

By Carolyn Edgar, Special to CNN

In a more logical political climate, Herman Cain’s buffoonery and complete ignorance of foreign policy would have been enough to end his presidential campaign. But as is often the case in American politics, a never-ending sex scandal did what no amount of foreign policy missteps could – it caused Cain to “re-assess” his campaign.

In the midst of the wall-to-wall coverage, I am reminded of a free-wheeling discussion of race and politics that took place at a 2008 meeting of my Harlem book club. The author and social commentator Toure came to talk about his book, “Never Drank the Kool-Aid.” He said the Democratic primary race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would determine whether America was more racist or more sexist. In other words, who would be more palatable to the American people: a black man or a woman?

If Obama’s clinching of the nomination - and eventually the presidency - indicated America may be more sexist than racist, Cain’s presidential campaign all but proves it.

When Sharon Bialek, the first of Cain’s accusers to go public, appeared with Gloria Allred to accuse the candidate of sexual harassment that bordered on sexual assault, many thought the attractive blonde’s claims would be enough to cause Cain to throw in the towel.

“She’s white,” people whispered.

Thinking of Tiger Woods, I thought four white women accusing a black man, a presidential candidate nonetheless, of sexual harassment would be a difficult hurdle to overcome. Everyone I talked to was certain the Republican Party’s conservative base would have a problem with “a black man messing with so many white women,” as a friend put it.

We were all wrong.

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Some have argued that the sexual harassment allegations against Cain would have been taken less seriously if they had been lodged by black women instead of white women. Yet it’s hard to imagine sexual harassment allegations being taken even less seriously than these were. Somehow, four women, all alleging similar behavior, were tarred with the same “not credible” brush. The Cain campaign even received a flood of donations after Bialek went public with her story. Their race was a non-factor.

Indeed, the news cycle had moved off of Cain’s possible sexual indiscretions - until Ginger White came along.

In a bizarre twist, White’s story of her alleged 13-year affair with Cain appeared to corroborate the sexual harassment claims of Cain’s previous accusers. The parallels in White’s and Bialek’s accounts - drinks, explicit or tacit offers of hotel room romps, Cain’s offers of financial assistance - suggest consistent patterns of behavior that are too hard to ignore. White said yes to Cain’s advances; Bialek turned him down. If nothing else, the stories seem to confirm that Cain aggressively pursued women who were not his wife, belying his claim that “I never did anything inappropriate with anyone.”

White says Cain was “very respectful” of her and that their relationship was entirely consensual. Yet she said that she came forward with her story because of the way Cain’s previous accusers were being treated in the media.

“It bothered me that they were being demonized…that they were being treated like they were automatically lying,” White said.

White’s background is as messy as Bialek’s, but the fact that a black woman’s tale of an alleged affair was regarded as more credible than the sexual harassment claims of four white women says that race is far less a factor than many observers assumed it to be.

Cain’s behavior, not the race of his accusers, was his undoing. But while America may, in fact, have made some slight progress on matters of race, it proves we still have a long, long way to go when it comes to sex and sexism.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Carolyn Edgar.

soundoff (262 Responses)
  1. Reason & Logic

    They just removed the Floor 999 button from Cain's elevator.

    December 2, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bob

    That's crap because it is about race. Blacks need to wake up and stop supporting the Democrat party because they are the party of racists. They accuse everyone of being racist plus they judge on race and not merit...Wake up!!

    December 2, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      It wasn't Democrats that MADE Cain have a secret friend for 13 years that he paid money to. It wasn't Democrats that MADE Cain keep his wife from knowing about her. It wasn't Democrats that MADE Cain call her at 4:26 in the morning.

      Get real. Bad attempt to support Republican hypocrites.

      December 2, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • GetEd

      Wow, what a sorry human being you are, Bob...So this has nothing to do with Cain, women, etc, it's all about the Democrats and black people...

      December 2, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Eddie

    Not only are these accusations going to hurt but also the inexperience in Foreign Affairs would also hurt him greatly in the General election against President Obama. He also made stupid remarks like quote: "IDont blame anyone but blame yourself" referring to the economy, people that are trying hard to find work take offense to his smart/egotistical remarks. He would not get any support especially from minorities and women. Obama would win with over 55% of the vote against Cain in a matchup. He needs to throw in the towel!!

    December 2, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jim

    Herman Cain for VICE President.

    December 2, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Reason & Logic

    Herman Cain is not a black man, he is a buffoon.

    December 2, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kev

    "This is mountainous. Like Iran. We shouldn't attack Iran. So don't attack me!"

    -Herman Cain, soon-to-be-former Presidential Candidate

    December 2, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. CEW

    So explain to me why Cain's campaign is tanking after these allegations, while Gengrich's campaign is thriving, despite his being a serial adulterer? Not only that, but Gengrich was disciplined by congress for ethics and tax violations, yet he hasn't be laughed out of the race. This is the SAME party that investigaged Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. No wonder the Republican are considered moral hypocrites. It's not OK for a black man to cheat or harass people, but IS ok for a white man to cheat on his wives with two different women, commit eithics violations, yet still be considered viable, but not OK for a democratic president to get a BJ in the oval office from an intern.

    December 2, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • athena

      Man, you got me with that question. Very good.

      December 2, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      Gingrich gets a pass from many now because his affairs are old news and he's not denied them. Cain's scandals are fresh and he's denying. People won't begin to forgive until he apologizes, and by then it will be too late for 2012, so he doesn't want to.

      December 2, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
      • Matt

        So the expected response is:
        1) "Admit" he did it, even if he didn't
        2) Apologize even if he really did nothing wrong
        Then he would be elected to two terms?

        December 2, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lilly

      Why not ask this question to the people who decided to donate millions of dollars to Cain's campaign after the first allegations came out. That kind of kills your theory right there. Cain even bragged about it the fact this his support skyrocketed after that. What killed Cain though was when two of the women were identified and went public and especially when he warned everyone that more women would probably come forward and that they were liars too. I know the average Republican is a bit on the thick side but even they eventually realized that the man couldn't be trusted. If I was a Republican I would've dropped this guy as soon as he admitted that he didn't know China was a nuclear power. For whatever reason expectations have been lowered so much that this fact did not affect most Republicans support.

      December 3, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • teresa, ohio

      @CEW: why cains is tanking and gingrich's isnt is simple: Cain is not a good speaker. He rambles a bit and goes all over the place. Cain is not an orator, has no political background and sounds ingnorant. Gingrich doesnt. So if u were bringing in the race card, you cant. Obama speaks well and made it .

      December 3, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Vin of Milton WA

    Who's lynching the guy...his wife?

    December 2, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. nowhereman

    Citizen, you could not be more mistaken. Take the blinders off. Liberals, as you say, have had nothing to do with this. Cain committed the acts, and he should be responsible. FOX News is reporting the same stuff.

    December 2, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
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