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Donald Trump Isn’t Herman Cain

When an oft-bankrupted reality-show billionaire declared for the GOP presidential nomination two months ago, I resolved to do my best to shield my vision, guard my pen, and strive in all things to avoid acknowledging a sure-to-be soon-passing (if depressing) storm. Two months and three days later, though, The Donald is still among us, and riding higher than ever.

There are many good and sound reasons [1] to expect that Trump’s summer surge will soon enough pass away, and few good or sound reasons to expect that he will ever get within shouting distance of actual nomination. But there is one comparison often being made to dismiss Trump’s candidacy that doesn’t quite hold, and which perhaps obscures full understanding of the Trump phenomenon more than it illuminates: Herman Cain.

Like Trump, Cain was a successful businessman who threw his hat into the presidential race as an anti-politician. He also at one point claimed the lead in the polls, reaching the mid-20 percent range Trump now occupies. That is where most of the similarities end, however, for while Cain was a mostly unknown former executive who was elevated in the course of 2012’s pursuit of an anti-Romney, any anti-Romney, Donald Trump is a force in his own right.

As has been frequently noted by now, Donald Trump is a bona fide media celebrity, with a long-running network reality TV show and a well-established career commanding tabloid covers before that. A real-estate mogul who accumulated vast wealth by, in his words, taking “advantage of the laws of this country,” Trump bankrupted and bullied his way into cronyism-begotten gains. He has specialized in courting public spats in order to keep his name in circulation, and has built his brand on a brash design aesthetic that one of my Parisian friends would only describe as “very American.”

Cain was a mostly honest broker who got in over his head due to structural politics beyond his control, and he bowed out when charges of scandal emerged. Trump is a degraded capitalism’s high aristocrat, and shows no sign of being shamed by scandal. Indeed, he courts it.

Trump’s celebrity status and experience do not mean that he definitely has staying power, but they do mean that his candidacy is sufficiently different from Cain, or any other of the 2012 attempted anti-Romneys for that matter, to merit separate analysis. I wouldn’t be shocked if Trump eventually pulled into the mid-30 percent range many of the 2012 alternatives reached, but I would be very surprised if reports of a sexual harassment accusation gave Trump a moment’s hesitation about jumping on the plane for his next campaign event.

We shall eventually be rid of Trump, but the mechanism of his removal is far from clear. In related news of our democracy, apparently the Independent candidate “Deez Nuts” is polling near double-digits in my home state of North Carolina [2].

8 Comments (Open | Close)

8 Comments To "Donald Trump Isn’t Herman Cain"

#1 Comment By TB On August 20, 2015 @ 7:44 am

I never thought Herman was in it to win it. Not so with The Donald. He believes his own act. They’re both self-aggrandizers, sure, but the latter is a true alpha. I believe Trump is The One the GOP has been pining for since Reagan.

#2 Comment By John On August 20, 2015 @ 7:49 am

Donald Trump is a distraction bleeding money and media focus from the only candidate capable of defeating Hillary Clinton next fall: Deez Nuts.

#3 Comment By ADL On August 20, 2015 @ 9:27 am

“We shall eventually be rid of Trump, but the mechanism of his removal is far from clear.”

Beltway GOP nabobs are in a bind: they’d like to do to Trump what Valery Jarret did to Hillary RE: her separate email service. But the GOP can’t do it now while Trump would have enough time to set up independent campaign organizations that he’d need to run as a 3rd party candidate.

So, for the time being, all the GOP can do RE: Trump is sit on its hands and hope that he self-destructs.

And if he doesn’t, we’re going to have ourselves an entertaining campaign season as both parties work hard to get their respective leading candidates to quit the race by the end of the year.

#4 Comment By Clint On August 20, 2015 @ 11:44 am

Rand Paul,
“Conservatives have to decide if he’s a fake conservative or not. And I think truly he is a fake conservative, because he’s been on every side of every issue in the last five years.”

While Trump seems to be a plastic conservative, he has at least short term limited value slapping down the Washington Establishment and the liberal media’s agenda.

#5 Comment By Just Dropping By On August 20, 2015 @ 2:12 pm

@ ADL: I’m pretty confident that the Republican establishment is not going to let Trump get close to the nomination, even at the risk of possibly prompting a third party run by him. Trump has no insiders in the party, so when the actual primaries begin his votes “mysteriously” won’t get counted and his delegate slates will not be selected in state conventions. He will be lucky to eek out a double digit number of delegates.

#6 Comment By Dennis On August 20, 2015 @ 3:31 pm

As horrible a person and candidate as he is, he’s frankly no worse than any other politician or prominent public figure today (And I don’t mean that as a compliment. It only shows how degraded the political and general culture of this country has become). Perhaps America deserves a celebrity troll President. After all, celebrity-worshiping trolls are basically what Americans have become.

#7 Comment By Chick Dante On August 21, 2015 @ 2:49 pm

Just read “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” by Neill Postman, written in 1985 by a protoge’ of Marshall McLughan. Showing how the lines between entertainment and politics, religion, education, science, and even thought itselff, had been, by then, already blurred by the TV, he could have predicted their complete erasure by the “micro-computer” (his term), the smartphone, Twitter and Facebook, or the show, American Idol. None of that has been lost on the Donald.

Postman argues that while Orwell feared the dermise of democracy through tyranny, his predecessor (and teacher), Aldous Huxley had predicted its demise by entertainment. And Postman could have written another chapter adding journalism to the institutions that would fall prey.

If Will Bunch was right in showing how Reagan was an actor pretending to be President, Postman shows us why Trump doesn’t need any coherent set of policies to be a successfull candidate for president.

#8 Comment By collin On August 25, 2015 @ 1:49 pm

Cain was a mostly honest broker who got in over his head due to structural politics beyond his control

Herman Cain 2012 was a book selling and talk radio tour, which he was probably as surprised anybody that he had a short term poll leader role.

Otherwise, Trump is still beating all other candidates while Cain lost interest in defending himself.