Asked about his own position as the most prominent African American in the Republican party these days, Herman Cain is fond of saying he refuses to “stay on the Democratic plantation like he’s supposed to” or that he refused to drink the liberal Kool-Aid.
Asked why more African Americans haven’t joined him at tea party rallies and conservative conventions like the Faith And Family Conference in DC this weekend, the millionaire ex-CEO has a different explanation. African Americans, Cain told TPM, are too poor to tea party.
“They can’t afford to,” Cain said. “So I think the first reason is economics. If you just look at the sheer economics of it.”
“If you look at the typical income of a black family of four it’s going to be lower than a non-black or white family of four,” he explained. “Generally speaking on average, white families are much more economically prosperous than black families. So, many black families don’t have the economic flexibility to go to a CPAC conference.”
Most tea partiers, Cain said, “own their own business, or they have the type of job where they have the flexibility where they can go to the rally.”
“Or they’re retired,” he added.
That’s just not the kind of job African Americans have, he said.
“If you are a blue collar, hourly worker and you’re not the business owner, you’re not going to take off or ask your boss to take off unpaid to go to a rally,” he said.
Cain was rare in that as a minority conservative leader he declined to criticize the conservative movement or the GOP for the lack of diversity at tea party events or rallies. White Republican leaders have often said they need to do more to reach out for more racial diversity, and other prominent African Americans on the Republican side have said the same thing.
Asked about the sea of white faces that greet the visitor at nearly any conservative gathering — even some focused on racial diversity — Cain said there were two extra factors that went beyond economics. Population demographics was one answer, he said, and the other was what he called Democratic “demagoguing” of the Republican party and conservatism.
“Anecdotally, I happen to believe that at least a third of blacks who vote are conservative,” Cain said. “But the left has intimidation tactics that cause some people who may not be as outspoken as I am to stay silent.”
As for the population numbers, Cain said it’s unrealistic to expect a large African American contingent at conservative events when one factors in the racial makeup of the country and the economic breakdown of blacks vs. whites.
“if you see 100 out of 1000 black faces in the audience, that’s par for the course [based on population numbers],” Cain said. “What lowers that is economics.”