It took Herman Cain’s sexually inappropriate behavior to threaten his candidacy. The man who has no experience in government, in fact whose chief “qualification” seems to be that he is not a politician (in a time when some sections of the electorate are leaning towards electing a non-politician to political office, and that the highest political office in the country) and who has offered a simplistic, inept formula to redress a complex tax code is now on the verge of watching his candidacy shrivel like an overcooked pizza.
The question I have is this: why is sexually inappropriate behavior (unproved in this case) a greater indicator of leadership ineptitude than the thin rhetoric of a book tour salesman deluded into thinking he can delude the nation into thinking that the economics of running a business is the same as managing the finances of the world’s largest economy; or the folly of a candidate with a threadbare electoral organization attempting to survive the merciless hustings that characterize American politics; or the bravado of an arrogant dismissal of his doubters because “that inspires me?”
There are plenty of reasons why sexual harassment suits are settled quietly and none of them necessarily exonerates the alleged perpetrator of the stigma of guilt, nor am I saying that such incidents are not symptomatic of an essential character flaw—they may be, and then again, they may also just be inappropriate social behavior, hundreds of examples of which abound. But do such allegations rise to the level of disqualifying a presidential candidate more than a lack of experience or vision or an inability to grasp the complexities of national and international statesmanship?
Such peccadilloes (or mortal sins, depending on your own sense of morality) certainly castigate the offender as an imperfect husband/father; no-one would want him teaching Sunday school—or sitting on the Supreme Court! But of all the egregious sins committed by politicians, this one seems to rise to the top in every campaign. Our leaders can embroil us in never-ending wars, ignore vast segments of a helpless population, destroy economic bulwarks leaving us vulnerable to the rapacious greed of unconscionable entities, preside over ever-widening social class gulfs, or spew platitudes when faced with serious problems; yet none of these acts seems to incur the public condemnation that inappropriate sexual behavior does!
Before you descend on me like moralizing locusts, let me aver for the record that I don’t think such conversations shouldn’t be part of the election process. I just wonder why it overwhelms what I think are much more serious issues—the lack of real qualifications for the job. I also think that certain persons are more exempt from such accusations than others—no, I’m thinking of Arnold rather than Bill! Is there a hint of racism attached to the brouhaha surrounding Cain? I can’t tell anymore, and that’s more than a little unsettling.
We are a society obsessed with Sex in the most hypocritical way possible! The sex industry in all its forms is easily the largest in this country and around the world—so someone’s buying it even as we either pretend to ignore it or inveigh against it with righteous indignation. The Puritanical spirit of America dates back at least to Oliver Cromwell, where it descended upon the political process with a vengeance and beheaded a king! Throughout our history it has seeped into the nooks and crannies of our social and political lives, and not just among conservatives, residing uneasily with our propensity towards freedom of expression (which by definition must embrace an effusive sexuality), its Apollonian rein desperately curbing our Dionysian predispositions.
I think we are somewhat embarrassed by our sexuality and love for sex, maybe even frightened by it! How else to explain the firestorm that erupted with the inadvertent, split-second exposition of a single nipple during a Super Bowl halftime performance? Really? One flashing nipple sent everyone, especially the FCC, into a tizzy, resulting in endless media coverage, fines, and new regulations. Soap operas are an endless parade of musical beds! Sitcoms and Reality TV are chock full of it! So why is even a glimmer of nudity blurred over while scenes of graphic violence allowed to run rampant over the airwaves? Our children need to be protected, of course. From what? A nipple? Sex? Nudity? And not the brutality of football games, the violence of cartoons, or the humiliation of Reality TV? Besides, it’s all available on pay TV! Now that says something about us! I wonder if our obsession with the sex lives of celebrities masks a jealousy and hatred that boil over when they fail to adhere to the same standards we violate with impunity every day? And does this fixation stem from the simple humiliating fact that we aren’t getting enough sex in our own lives? There, I said it!! After all, we do live vicariously in every other way—adventure, sports heroics, etc.
So many stories of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sexual escapades emerged during the campaign that legitimate questions were raised about his demeaning attitude to women. They weren’t enough to sink his candidacy, although eventually they did destroy his marriage! If Cain is cut from the same cloth will he escape in the same way? Or is the hullaballoo that surrounds him now merely the titillation of a society that cannot get enough of sex? In that case it may even work in his favor because it will deflect attention away from what we really need to heed—his threadbare resume and complete lack of credibility as a viable presidential candidate!