On July 30th, America lost one of this century’s bravest political figures: Herman Cain.
Though he beat stage 4 cancer in 2006 when doctors only gave him a 30% chance of survival, coronavirus proved too much after a month-long hospital stay in the Atlanta-area.
Regrettably, media voices have worsened the tragedy by obsessing over his attendance at a late June campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma for President Trump while largely ignoring his remarkable lifetime achievements. Despite the fact nobody knows exactly where he caught COVID-19 considering a recent visit to Arizona and daily life in Georgia, that hasn’t prevented rampant speculation which needlessly tarnishes his image.
As his VP of Communications and Chief Foreign Policy Adviser on the 2012 presidential campaign, I got to know him well. Survived by his wife Gloria, their children Melanie and Vincent, and three grandchildren, he leaves behind a proud legacy to remember, despite coronavirus:
Lived the American Dream – Born in Memphis and raised in Atlanta, he grew up poor. His father worked as a chauffeur, barber and janitor while his mother was a maid. They lived in a duplex, “half a house” as he always joked. Despite the challenge of growing up in the civil rights-era Deep South, he studied and worked hard to overcome. After graduating from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s alma mater, Morehouse College, with a degree in mathematics, he joined the Navy as a civilian at Dahlgren, Virginia and served as a ballistics analyst – a literal rocket scientist. Next he climbed the corporate ladder: Coca Cola, Pillsbury, Burger King and eventually the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. Leadership posts as President of the National Restaurant Association and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City followed. Over a decade later, grassroots political friends like Mark Block of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), Linda J. Hansen and Rich Lowrie saw his incredible potential and became key players in his presidential campaign.
Paved the way for President Trump – As a senior staff member of both Cain 2012 and Trump 2016 campaigns, I saw parallels in their political rise. While Cain topped the Republican primary polls in late 2011 with his “9-9-9” plan for overhauling the federal tax code with 9% personal, corporate and national sales tax rates to replace the current system, Trump led the way in 2015 and 2016 with a simpler pledge to “Make America Great Again.” Both were charismatic, gifted speakers known as successful business leaders before entering politics. They packed venues nationwide with energized pro-American rallies, promising a fresh approach to fix illegal immigration, cut taxes and government bureaucracy, bring back U.S. jobs and rebuild the military. Each appeared as defenders of the nation battling a growing far-left movement bent on burning it down. They grasped the growing resentment with Washington leaders as millions of manufacturing jobs disappeared overseas, while porous borders and lax policies allowed ample cheap labor to drive down wages and take even more jobs away. And when people dared to complain, they were reflexively branded as racists, bigots and eventually a “basket of deplorables.”
Crushed racial and class stereotypes – One of his proudest achievements was taking on identity politics, class warfare and the victimhood mentality. He challenged the idea that a person’s race and economic class should define their politics and predicted winning a third of the black vote in 2012. Together with key allies Niger Innis, son of civil rights leader Roy Innis; Dr. Alveda King, niece of MLK, Jr.; and economists Art Laffer and Steve Moore, Cain made progress in breaking those old paradigms.
Exposed corporate media partisan bias – Cain’s rise showed the bulk of corporate media sprinting left and increasingly hostile towards conservatives. Their aggressive coverage, at times even physical in nature, seemed less about journalism and more about active participation in an ideological battle over America’s future. While they elevated President Obama and associates as national saviors, they demonized Cain. Once he topped the polls in 2011, organizations like CNN, MSNBC, ABC, Politico, The Washington Post, New York Times, etc. waged a relentless, non-stop campaign to destroy him over sexual harassment claims from decades past. Yet while similar allegations also from multiple women surfaced last year against Virginia’s Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a prominent black liberal, somehow the media didn’t subject him to the same type of harsh daily coverage, thus he’s still in office. I wonder why.
As we remember Herman Cain and his amazing journey we should reflect on how he lived more than his untimely passing. His legacy as an American patriot who honored and defended the flag will inspire generations to come.
J.D. Gordon is a former Senior National Security & Foreign Policy Advisor to Donald Trump, Herman Cain and Mike Huckabee. Previously, he served as a Pentagon spokesman during the George W. Bush Administration and is a retired Navy Commander.