he GOP has an excellent opportunity to elevate to national prominence a charismatic leader of the free enterprise system. His election in November 2004 would Republicanize a now-Democratic U.S. Senate seat. He also could sell GOP principles to black Americans, in part because he is black himself.
If bringing black conservatism to the world's greatest deliberative body sounds too good to be true, it isn't. Atlanta businessman Herman Cain, 57, hopes to succeed retiring Senator Zell Miller (D., Ga.). Cain has launched an exploratory committee and website and asked key GOP, conservative and libertarian activists for their support. Cain's campaign should excite Americans seeking a powerful new voice for free-market ideas.
And what a voice Cain offers! Hardly higher than that of James Earl Jones, Cain's bass baritone rolls with the rhythms of a southern sermon. Indeed, Cain is an associate minister at Atlanta's Antioch Baptist Church North where he occasionally preaches on the hereafter.
In the here and now, Cain's communications and problem-solving skills won him the chairmanship of the 600-restaurant Godfather's Pizza chain. He also is a director of the Hallmark, Reader's Digest, and Whirlpool companies.
I have seen Cain address three large audiences: an issues forum that publisher Steve Forbes organized during the 1996 GOP Convention in San Diego, a 1999 Manhattan banquet launching Forbes's 2000 presidential bid (which I served as a communications consultant), and a March 2002 Cato Institute seminar in Washington, D.C. on blacks and Social Security. Cain consistently speaks with remarkable energy, conviction, and authority.
"I am better prepared than ever before to help protect life, restore lost liberties and encourage the pursuit of happiness by all," Cain says.
"Take a look at the tax code," he tells me. "There was a law passed years ago that allows the government to take money out of your paycheck before you get your money. What would Thomas Jefferson say about that? You have lost the liberty to receive all of your wages before you pay taxes. You, by law, must contribute to Social Security, and you don't own your contributions. I don't call that liberty. The fact that the life expectancy of an African-American male is now 68 years of age, and the life expectancy of a white male is 75 years of age, says to me that there is not much liberty in African Americans subsidizing the Social Security system."
Cain repeatedly says: "Replace the tax code." He would scrap today's federal income, corporate, payroll and death taxes and instead implement a 23-percent consumption tax. Americans could control their tax exposure by adjusting their spending. Monthly Treasury checks that Cain calls "pre-bates" would "untax" the sales levies on basic necessities. He forecasts that Americans would save $250 billion annually in transcended tax-compliance costs.
Cain believes that
America "is being held back by the current tax code. Replacing it
with a consumption tax would unleash the full potential of our economy."
While Cain still is crafting healthcare proposals, he generally argues that individuals should be empowered to purchase their own medical insurance with funds their employers now spend.
Cain's Republican primary opponents are fellow black businessman Al Bartell and congressmen Mac Collins and Johnny Isakson. While Atlantan Phil Kent president of Southeastern Legal Foundation, a conservative, public interest law firm admires these contenders' business backgrounds, he predicts that Cain "will give liberals fits."
"It's just enchanting," says Steve Moore, president of Club for Growth, a pro-market PAC in Washington. "Herman has all the credentials. He fought for the sales tax. He's an entrepreneur. He was an adviser to the 2000 Steve Forbes campaign. His is an Horatio Alger story. The Democrats don't have any blacks in the Senate. We, as Republicans, could. A black, free-market senator from the South would be rich with irony."
"Blacks, liberals, and conservatives can identify with his background," says Cain booster Alex St. James, chairman of the African-American Republican Leadership Council in Washington. "His story resonates with Georgians of all backgrounds. They certainly can identify with where he comes from in achieving the American dream."
Herman Cain passionately believes in America because of his family's steady advancement here.
"My great, great grandparents were slaves," Cain says. "My great grandparents were sharecroppers. My grandparents were farmers. My father was a chauffeur. Most generations want to give the next generation a better start. That's what my parents tried to do for me," adds the Morehouse College graduate and former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
"If we do not solve the tax code, Social Security and health care the proper way, we will not give future generations a better start and keep this the greatest country in the world. If you have to sum up why I am running for the United States Senate, that's it."
Mr. Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service.