When Dan Rather reassured his viewers in 1991 that there was nothing too fear from a “black” President in Zimbabwe he was looking at things primarily through the prism of race. But in the four and a half minute video after the read more none of Mugabe’s critics interviewed made reference to his ethnicity at all. It was his Marxist and Maoist roots they were all worried about. The suggestion passed Rather like water on a duck’s back. He could see the situation in Zimbabwe through the racial prism but not the ideological one.
More recently the Weekly Standard noticed how Democratic strategist and MSNBC analyst Karen Finney thought of Herman Cain, who is arguably the most free-market Republican candidate in the running.
“One of the things about Herman Cain is, I think that he makes that white Republican base of the party feel okay, feel like they are not racist because they can like this guy. I think he giving that base a free pass. And I think they like him because they think he’s a black man who knows his place. I know that’s harsh, but that’s how it sure seems to me.”
To Finney, the essence of Herman Cain isn’t his ideas, nor his platform. It is not even his track record. Like Rather the proper measure is his race, or rather his failure to correspond to her conception of his race. “I think they like him because they think he’s a black man who knows his place.”
Events since 1991 have probably demonstrated to any reasonable man that Dan Rather’s selected prism was entirely the wrong one to use in judging Robert Mugabe. It was the ideological criteria of Mugabe’s opponents which proved to be the most valid after all. Is it possible that Finney is looking at Cain through the wrong lens? That maybe Cain’s ideas do count for something? Maybe that is too radical a suggestion. Maybe another Cain can try again in a hundred years when a man can be evaluated by the content of his mind rather than the color of skin.