Herman Cain’s improbable rise to the top of Republican presidential primary polls — and the prospect that two black men, including an incumbent, could compete head-on for the White House next year — should be proof that American politics has moved beyond race. Instead, Cain’s candidacy has been marred by empty self-promotion, embarrassing miscues and renewed allegations that may have set back the cause of black conservatism.
The Cain presidential experiment coincides with a period of new gains for black conservatives. “Americans find it hard to believe we’re a diverse group,” says Florida Representative Allen West, one of two black Republicans elected to Congress in the Tea Party wave of 2010. “But when you really understand the black community, it’s quite conservative.” West’s parents may have been Democrats, “but the things they raised me on — faith, education, individual responsibility — are true conservative principles. There are more African Americans out there starting to lean that way. It has nothing to do with party.”
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