RIP, Herman Cain for President 

The Atlanta businessman blew his chance to make a meaningful contribution

The Cain Train came to a screeching halt last weekend. Standing alongside his wife, Gloria, outside his Atlanta campaign headquarters, one-time Republican presidential favorite Herman Cain announced that, amid allegations of fondling and philandering, he was "suspending" his campaign.

First, that he "suspended" the campaign rather than just pulling out (we literally could not resist) would appear to be a technicality. Terminating a campaign requires the candidate to apply to the Federal Election Commission and to settle any and all debts owed. (For example, Hillary Clinton's '08 campaign is still classified as "suspended" because of outstanding debts.) A "suspended" campaign also remains eligible for public funding. But, all signs point to the end of Herman Cain for President. Really, it's about time.

The allegations of sexual misconduct that nailed his campaign's coffin shut were little more than distractions from Cain's greater offenses. Maybe he grabbed a business associate's crotch and bedded an acquaintance for 13 years. Maybe he didn't. (OK, he probably did.) His real transgression was consistently and willingly making a clown of himself. He ran a campaign that celebrated anti-intellectualism and sold the lie that the U.S. government could be run like a pizza company. In the process, he embarrassed businessmen, he embarrassed black conservatives, he embarrassed Atlanta — and he embarrassed himself. Rather than run a thoughtful, serious campaign, Cain squandered the political capital he'd amassed in favor of hokey, Tea Party sloganeering.

It remains a topic of debate, but it's safe to assume that Herman Cain isn't an idiot. To write him off as another right-wing moron is to attribute to dumb luck his rise from a poor, chauffer's son to mathematician and corporate CEO. Instead of embracing his intelligence, he adopted the increasingly popular strategy of appealing to the right wing's undereducated, overzealous masses, famously saying that the country needs a "leader, not a reader." For a while, it worked. A lot of the people who liked him did so because his proposals and his politics were inch-deep. He didn't get wrapped up in the minutiae of an issue, and he kept his talking points simplistic and superficial. But, it wasn't a sustainable strategy, which has, arguably, been proven by Newt Gingrich's meteoric rise in the polls. Say what you will about his politics and peccadilloes, Gingrich is pragmatic, knowledgeable, and doesn't rely on catchy campaign slogans, because he doesn't have to.

Besides his shot to become a serious contender, Cain also blew the opportunity to be a breath of fresh air by simply being honest with people. Cain was wont to remind folks how he'd whipped Godfather's Pizza back into shape when he came aboard, and how he could employ the same strategies to whip the U.S. government back into shape. But Cain knows as well as anyone that the United States of America, Inc., is a suburban fallacy. If anyone tried to run a democracy like an executive runs a company, he'd be considered a dictator, not president.

If anything should be derived from Herman Cain's whirlwind foray into politics, it's this: the American people aren't willing to settle for dumbed-down politics. Pundits might be able to get away with it, but presidential candidates can't. So, Herman, we're sure we'll see you on Fox News in no time.

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