Courtesy TIME Ideas
Meghan McCain fascinatingly characterized the Republican primaries as akin to dating in that the electorate keeps having one fling after another in the hopes of avoiding the seemingly inevitable marriage to the boringly dependable Mitt Romney. Herman Cain has lasted too long to be called a fling, but the GOPâ€™s ardor for him has blinded it to his obvious ineptness in almost every aspect on which youâ€™d test a candidate (foreign policy, domestic affairs, likeliness to seduce voters outside the party, ability to deal with the media microscope, ability to cope with scandal). The only aspect that he does well is exude charisma, as if heâ€™s the kid who doesnâ€™t study but somehow charms the teacher into passing him.
The partyâ€™s love for him has not cooled despite a sexual harassment scandal he continues to handle poorly. (Justin Bieber is handling his nascent paternity scandal with more forthrightness, directness and crisis management wisdom than Cain did.) Cain seems to be surviving the scandal because the GOP truly likes him and because the party really has nowhere else to go but to Romney and because this is a rather tepid scandal compared to what weâ€™ve grown used to from politicians (he abused power but thereâ€™s not even allegations of actual sex, so for most people it doesnâ€™t really matter). But thereâ€™s also something else. The GOPâ€™s relationship with Cain is more psychologically important than its relationship with any other candidate because Cain is that special thing: the partyâ€™s cool new Black friend.