So the phone rings last night about quarter till 7, and it’s Herman Cain calling.
Normally, you’d expect a call at that time of the evening, right in the middle of the dinner hour, to be someone asking if I’m happy with my wireless service. Instead, it’s pizza executive, motivational speaker, Republican presidential candidate, accused lady’s man and all-around black guy Herman Cain, asking if I’m happy with my presidential service.
I don’t think it was the actual Herman but rather a virtual one, a recording of his voice. The surprise leader in many national polls is ramping up his campaign in South Carolina before that state’s January primary, and part of that effort involves calling up voters and offering them a thick, topping-loaded slice of his odd recipe for fixing America.
It was pretty sophisticated for a robo-call, I thought. It sounded like the Hermanator was talking directly to me, rather than reading a script in some distant sound studio.
“Good evening, I’m Herman Cain and I’m running for president,” he began.
I thought about hanging up right away. Not only do I object in principle to telemarketers interrupting my home life, so too do I oppose just about every hare-brained scheme the fiery Cain has proposed. But I was curious about his pitch so I stayed on the line.
Cain spoke for a minute or so in general terms, hitting the same themes that he does out on the campaign trail. He wants to get government off the back of business. He wants lower taxes and lower government spending. He wants to take our country back. He longs for old-fashioned values, like the time when it was okay for an executive to ask his female co-workers if they’d mind taking off their shirts.
Actually, he said nothing at all about recent reports that he’d been accused of sexually harassing two women he worked with back in the ’90s. (Cain has claimed he only “joked about the women’s height,” teasing that he wished instead of coming up to his chin they stood about as tall as his zipper). He kept strictly to the issues.
Then he offered me a question: “Would you mind if I asked where you stand on a number of policies important to my campaign?”
There was a long pause. I hadn’t expected this to be an interactive call, but apparently Herman’s camp has invested in voice-recognition technology that allows him to gauge Americans’ sentiments on important questions of the day, as long as they could be answered with a “yes” or a “no”.
“No?” I answered tentatively.
Within moments, Herman was off on a vigorous round of interrogation.
“Do you agree with me that life begins at conception?” he asked. After accidentally saying he endorsed a woman’s right to choose in a recent TV interview, Cain has retrenched to the far right. His position now is that even victims of rape and incest should be denied abortions, and that if a woman’s life is endangered by her pregnancy, tough toenails.
“No,” I answered.
“Do you believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman?” he pried.
“No,” I said.
“Do you believe that the Second Amendment guarantees all Americans the rights of gun ownership?”
“Well, I don’t think it’s quite that simple,” I answered. “True, the Constitution does seem to endorse private gun ownership, though many legal scholars believe it’s in the context of a ‘well-regulated militia’. Now that we have a standing army, a militia is no longer necessary.”
The other end of the line was silent. This was a little too much detail and nuance for a candidate who prided himself on a black-or-white, us-versus-them world view.
“No,” I simplified.
Herman asked a few more questions, but these were mostly to identify my individual demographic. He asked if I was male (“yes”), if I was white (“yes”) and if I was Republican (“God, no”). He asked if I wanted to work for or donate to his campaign. I laughed, which I hoped would register as a “no”.
Cain thanked me for my time and wished me a good evening. The line went dead.
Hey, wait a second, Herm. I had a few questions I wanted to ask you:
Don’t you think it will be confusing to future history students if there’s a “Cain” running for president in 2012, so soon after a “McCain” ran in 2008?
Do you think we’re headed for a “Miss America situation” in national politics? Remember how, after the first black Miss America was named, that we had other African-American winners for several years following? Is that where we’re headed at the presidential level in this post-racial nation?
Can I get you Kim Kardashian’s phone number?
But Mr. Cain was gone. All that was left was a dial tone where once there had been a vital voice for a return to conservative American values, except the ones that prevented people like him from coming to political power.
Hopefully, we’ll all get the opportunity in the general election to learn more about how a future discounted down to $9.99 is the right choice for America.