An embattled Herman Cain has given up his fight for the GOP presidential nomination, but his wife, Gloria Cain, will continue to be the subject of prayers and speculation. Will she leave her husband in light of the allegations of sexual harassment and a long-term affair? Or will Gloria stand by her man? Either way, I’m more worried about America’s weird relationship with and impossible expectations of its presidential candidates.
Over the past few election cycles, it’s become clear that voters want a “regular” guy or gal who goes hunting and enjoys low-brow TV but is also smart enough to solve the most challenging and complex problems the world has faced.
We want a candidate who exudes charisma and easily connects with people but is immune to their charms. We want a candidate with ego and ambition enough to keep him on a punishing campaign schedule, but one who is nonetheless devoted to the quiet joys of family life.
Alas, America has yet to be graced with the national politician who is a self-effacing egomaniac, brilliant and average, sexy but monogamous, gregarious but restrained.
And it ain’t gonna happen, either.
On what turned out to be the final day of the Cain campaign, up popped a new Web site: Women for Herman Cain. The header’s photograph, of four women giving a thumbs up, had to be removed after reports that the women were not Cain supporters but stock photography models. According to the New York Post, the same photo had been used before, including on sites for “au pairs and a South African sugar company.”
Of course, Cain should have put women front and center in his campaign weeks ago instead of at the last possible minute. But testimonials left on the site only confirmed my sense that voters are not always dealing in reality:
“Mr. Cain,” one post said, “I have never actively supported a candidate in my 66 years of life, but I fully support you.” Really? No one in six decades? Apparently Herman Cain had something even revered conservative icon Ronald Reagan lacked.
A recurring theme on the Women for Herman Cain site, as in Cain’s announcement that he was suspending his campaign, is that all of his problems were the fault of the media: “Do not let the media or anyone else drive you from this race,” one supporter wrote.
Other posts suggested that this electoral episode reflects poorly on womankind: “It’s disgusting,” said one, that “these women have taken advantage of you. They are the ones with questionable character, not you.”
“Mrs. Cain,” said another, “I’m so very sorry for the pain you’ve had to suffer at the hands of these seriously troubled women and those behind them. Such an elegant lady as you should never have to deal with such scum.”
The topper, though, was this one: “Then he smiled. How long has it been since we have seen a sincere smile from a political candidate!”
Never mind that the country is facing the worst economy in 80 years, that life savings are dwindling and families are getting thrown into the street. Never mind that Congress is in a state of paralysis and natural resources continue to deplete at alarming rates. Or that interviews and debates revealed that Cain did not have a firm grasp of geography or history. No big deal for the smile-savoring Women for Herman Cain?
If there’s anything our president, who doesn’t like to fight, and his supporters in the “reality-based community,” could learn from Cain’s dramatic rise and fall, it’s the appeal of (even an uninformed) scrapper who sticks to his guns. Or am I asking the impossible, too?
Donna Trussell is a Kansas City-based writer and cartoonist.