The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

From Doug Hoffman to Herman Cain: Continuing the Tea Party Momentum

Posted on | October 4, 2011 | 15 Comments

“Busting the balls of the Establishment is a process not an event.”
Robert Stacy McCain, Nov. 12, 2010

Steve Foley and I were having a laugh yesterday about the success of the Herman Cain campaign, which has made us look like geniuses, having lined up early with the self-described “dark horse” who’s now gaining ground on the front-runners.

Steve launched in January, when the general attitude toward Cain was “Herman Who?” But the online grassroots army had actually been in the planning phase for weeks. Steve and I had our first phone conversation about it sometime in November, after I’d mentioned Cain near the end of a Nov. 13 post about the blog-war between Patterico and Jeff Goldstein.

It’s kind of characteristic that I’d bury something like that near the end of a long post about something that would only interest a relative handful of diehard readers. Dan Riehl used to chide me about doing long posts, or doing multiple updates to a post on a breaking story, because that’s not the way you’re supposed to do it. People like blog posts to be short, and it’s better to have updates as new posts of their own, rather than to update a previous post.

Sometimes, however, doing it the “wrong” way is the best way to do things, as for instance when — in one of the most crucial presidential elections in American history — you decide to back a hopeless longshot with zero name recognition that everybody says can’t possibly win.

Genius, you see?

Of course, the odds against Herman Cain being sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on Jan. 20, 2013, are still astronomical, but merely the fact that Cain is being talked about as a real contender now is a huge achievement. He’s come farther than anybody ever thought he’d go, so it’s kind of hard to say now that he can’t go all the way.

But it’s all about busting the balls of the Establishment, as I explained Nov. 12 in “No Regrets About Delaware,” and as I said, it’s a process, not an event. However unfortunate Christine O’Donnell’s defeat, her victory over Mike Castle in the GOP primary was something to be proud of, and if you don’t understand why that is, I’ll have to take you all the way back to the Doug Hoffman campaign in NY-23, which is where I first met Steve Foley. But before we go back that far, let me quote myself at length from that Nov. 12 post:

Conservatives were told for decades that Arlen Specter was the best they could hope for in Pennsylvania, a state that was alleged to be trending inevitably toward Democrats.
In the words of a very wise man: “Heh.”
Not only did Toomey chase Specter out of the primary and beat Joe Sestak on Election Day, but Pennsylvania Republicans won the governorship and five House seats, defeating incumbent Democrats Kathy Dahlkemper (PA-3), Bryan Lentz (PA-7), Patrick Murphy (PA-8), Chris Carney (PA-10) and — sweetest of all — 26-year incumbent Paul Kanjorski (PA-11).
So much for that inevitable trend, you see.
The trend-hoppers thought jumping aboard the Obama express was their ticket to ride, and instead it was their ticket to political oblivion.
Charlie Crist embraced the stimulus. Good-bye, Charlie!
Mike Castle voted for cap-and-trade. Good-bye, Mike!
I’m reminded of what a GOP operative said to me shortly after the NRSC endorsed Crist in May 2009: “All they care about is getting their chairmanships back, and they don’t care how they get there.”
Yeah. Fuck John Cornyn, fuck the NRSC and fuck your chairmanships, you treacherous bastards.

One of the most important lessons of history is that there is no such thing as an inevitable trend. Men make trends, and not the other way around. And I wonder where we would be today had it not been for Doug Hoffman’s decision to fight the GOP Establishment in NY-23. Most people have no idea how crucial that campaign was to what has happened since — and what’s still happening now. But on Election Night 2010, while the crowd in Boca Raton celebrated Allen West’s historic victory, I placed a call to Hoffman at home in upstate New York:

A mere 18 months after a Time magazine cover story declared Republicans an “endangered species,” Democrats suffered their worst loss in any congressional election since 1938.
“I think my campaign, and the people who were supporting me, woke up America and said, ‘We’re fed up. We have to do something about it. We’re not going to take more spending, more taxes, and more government regulations,’?” Hoffman said. “I’m disappointed that I’m not going to be part of the excitement and going to Washington, but if the legacy of my race last year is the people who are going to Washington this year, then I’m very proud to watch what’s happening tonight, and anticipate the Republicans taking over the House.”

It was a long drive from Boca Raton back home to the hills of Western Maryland — including an overnight stay in the Daytona Beach motel where I wrote that 1,000-word article for the December/January issue of The American Spectator — and I had a lot of time to think about what it all meant. What seemed crucial to me was to maintain the political momentum of the Tea Party, to keep the conservative grassroots fired up and, incidentally, to continue the process of busting the balls of the GOP Establishment.

The most obvious candidate to do that was Sarah Palin, but it was also obvious that Palin was in wait-and-see mode and wasn’t ready to come out campaigning for president right away. All along, I knew that 2012 speculation would become the constant topic of pundit speculation as soon as the mid-term election was over, and we needed to have somebody ready to step up and carry the Tea Party banner. If Palin eventually decided to run, OK, we’d cross that bridge when we got there, but with the Establishment types already talking about Romney and Pawlenty as the front-runners, we needed somebody now. But who?

And that’s when I thought of Herman Cain.

I’d interviewed Herman in Atlanta in 2007, barely a year after he’d been diagnosed with cancer, and was struck by the fact that his analysis of what was wrong with the Republican Party was the same as my analysis of what went wrong with the Republican Party:

“They didn’t stick to principles,” he says, when asked why Republicans lost control of Congress in the 2006 elections. He criticizes Republicans in Washington for spending irresponsibly, failing to pass Social Security reform and, especially, not heeding their grass-roots supporters on immigration policy.
“They were not listening to people outside Washington. If they would have listened, they wouldn’t have lost,” says Mr. Cain, explaining that he finds people are eager to tell him their views on political issues.
“I’m like a walking poll. … It’s not scientific, but it’s pretty darned consistent,” he says of what he heard about immigration last year. “Republicans were screaming, ‘Secure the borders first.’ ”
Republicans in Washington “are too afraid of their political shadows,” Mr. Cain says. He adds that many of his colleagues on corporate boards are so “disgusted” with Republicans that they have stopped contributing to the party, telling him: “When they start acting like Republicans, I’ll write some more checks.”
Considering the party’s prospects in 2008, he asks, “Where’s the excitement? Where’s the fun? There is none.”

Then I’d seen Cain speak at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in June 2010 and was so impressed — the crowd reaction was phenomenal — that I’d called up Smitty raving about it. And at the end of his speech, Herman added a line to suggest that Republicans keep in mind there might be a “dark horse” candidate in 2012:

Now, here was a stone-cold crazy idea: A guy who had never held elected office running for president. But wasn’t Doug Hoffman a guy who had never held public office? And, in the subsequent historic mid-term Republican landslide, didn’t we elect lots of other people who had never held elected office, including Allen West? And don’t all the really genius ideas sound crazy at first?

Herman Cain was perfect. As I later said, he’s “Steve Forbes with charisma” — a guy with a business background who can also fire up a crowd. The very fact that he was regarded by all the “experts” as a hopeless long shot made him the dream candidate for Tea Party activists, who love nothing better than to prove the experts wrong. So Nov. 13, at the end of a long post about the Patterico-Goldstein feud, I wrote this:

This isn’t 2003-2005. The GOP isn’t riding high in the saddle with control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. The Republican Party reached its low ebb of 2008 by following the advice of Karl Rove and others who thought they were The Smartest Guys in the Room. The establishmentarian political style of the Bush era isn’t going to defeat the Obama Machine, and Republicans aren’t going to win future battles by promising a return to the status quo ante.
People are sick and tired of that same old politics-as-usual crap. . . .
The Republican Party “brand damage” problem, a legacy of the Bush era, is not going to be repaired by nominating unprincipled career politicians . . .
Yeah: Herman Cain. Having backed a few can’t-possibly-win underdogs in the past couple of years — I went all-in for Rubio when he was 35 points down — I’m taking a long, hard look at that dark horse. . . .

That was written less than two weeks after the 2010 mid-terms, and you notice the reference to Marco Rubio. The way I see the narrative arc of the Tea Party movement as a political force, it came into its own in May 2009 with the “Not One Red Cent” rebellion against the attempt of the GOP Establishment to “fix” the Florida Senate primary for Charlie Crist. It continued with Doug Hoffman’s campaign in NY-23, and then carried over into the Scott Brown campaign in Massachusetts.

After Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, the movement appeared to lose focus, but that was only because the people in the movement were involved in hundreds of local elections all across the country, from the city council level up to Senate campaigns. It wasn’t about rallies and speeches any more, it was about doing the hard work necessary to elect candidates sworn to oppose the Obama/Pelosi/Reid agenda. The Establishment won its share of GOP primaries — they wouldn’t be the Establishment if they weren’t powerful — but we beat enough of their pets that they by God know we’re not just going to roll over and take it anymore. And if the process of busting the Establishment’s balls is going to continue in 2012 . . .

Well, when Steve Foley called me last November and started talking about Cain, I was all in, just like I went all in for Hoffman and Rubio.

With Michele Bachmann’s campaign now apparently falling apart, Herman Cain is the logical choice for conservatives who want to keep the Tea Party momentum going in 2012. It’s still one of those genius ideas that everybody says is crazy, but it’s looking a lot less crazier every day.

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15 Responses to “From Doug Hoffman to Herman Cain: Continuing the Tea Party Momentum”

  1. Joe
    October 4th, 2011 @ 2:10 pm
  2. Joe
    October 4th, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

    This is a very good post RSM. 

  3. Robbyahm
    October 4th, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

    Remember South Carolina! not one republican voted in lock step with the establishment when the debt ceiling more spending “compromise bill” came up, that also included Joe “You Lie” Wilson who is considered an insider somewhat and Trey Gowdy who defeated RINO-ceros Bob Inglis.

  4. Anonymous
    October 4th, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

    Terrific post.

  5. wordygirl
    October 4th, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

    Don’t listen to Dan, Stacy.  The thing I love MOST about your site are your in-depth posts.  You have a gift with words, and terrific analysis.

    Oh, and Herman is the man.

  6. AngelaTC
    October 4th, 2011 @ 4:29 pm

    Don’t take this too seriously, because if Cain wins the primary I’ll vote for him in the general, and not just because he has an R after his name. (Actually, almost in spite of that these days…)

    But dude – implying that a federal reserve banker who supported TARP represents the TEA Party only serves to illustrate that the TEA Party can’t even manage to hold on to a single core issue. 

  7. Sarah Rumpf
    October 4th, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

    As a writer who tends to write long posts myself, I say:

    Don’t. Change. A. Dang. Thing.

  8. steve benton
    October 4th, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

    And this ” My Little Pony” moment is sponsored by Jerry Jeff Walker:

    “Pissing in the wind, betting on a losing friend

    Making the same mistakes, we swear we’ll never make again

    Pissing in the wind, but it’s blowing on all our friends

    We’re gonna sit and grin and tell our grandchildren”

  9. Adjoran
    October 4th, 2011 @ 7:37 pm

    As Tim Scott explained, the delegation was held together at the behest of Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham (yes, that one) to prevent the worst of the last-minute changes from being entered, but would have voted for the bill if necessary.

    Inglis was no “RINO” either – he had a solid conservative record and was our nominee against Fritz Hollings the last time he ran.  He voted for TARP, as did most, but was arrogant and mouthy about it and his primary opponent and was punished for that.

  10. Adjoran
    October 4th, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

    Am I reading this right?  Cain doesn’t have to actually win to make you a genius, the fact that he’s been recognized by some MSM outlets as a “contender” is all you need to declare victory and move on?

    Pretty slick, especially since I hear the next flavor of the month is tutti-fruitti.

  11. Danby
    October 4th, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

    The perfect can be enemy of the good, and Tea Partiers can endorse less-than-perfect candidates. Of the people whoa re in the race, right now, who are the best candidates the teapartiers can support? Pawlenty, Bachmann and Cain. Which one is perfect?

    If the goal is to eliminate the Federal reserve, perhaps Cain is not an acceptable candidate. But for most people, the goals are to:
    1) stop borrrowing money on my credit, damnit!
    2) Cut the size scope and power of the federal bureaucracy
    3) roll back the vast tide of governmental regulation that has engulfed the country

  12. Mike Rogers
    October 4th, 2011 @ 8:44 pm

    With you all the way, RSM.
    I love your comments about Cornyn and the NRSC!
    I actually have not sent them a penny since Feb 2009, and it wasn’t Crist vs Rubio, although thatnwas the icing on the cake. It was the infamous email asking for donations to “help us take back the AIG bonuses”. at that point, I knew for sure that the establishment GOP did not respect the constitution.
    I support Toomey and the Club for Growth (now Chocola), and Jim DeMint’s SCF.
    And yes, I’ve been on the Cain train for two years.

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  14. Anonymous
    October 5th, 2011 @ 1:25 am

    Good point, RSM.  An army may not win all the battles but it fights them all if it’s going to win.  Even our defeats are part of the
    path to victory.

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