Poor Herman Cain. He’s out of the Republican race for president, mainly because he can’t keep his pants on and his mouth shut. What I think is interesting, though, is that the allegations of sexual harassment that have been circulating for some time now weren’t the problems that brought down his campaign. What caused him to “suspend” his run was this past week’s announcement that he’s been having a 13-year extramarital affair. (Just for the record here, folks: one of these acts is ILLEGAL and the other is just UNFORTUNATE.)
You could argue that he’s in trouble because of the COMBINATION of the acts and that the affair was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But, again, even looking at that logic, we’re basically still saying that when a person in a powerful position inappropriately propositions or touches women, that’s not that bad (they are just allegations after all). But, when he harasses women AND cheats on his wife, now that’s a different story. In short, we’re busting this guy for the wrong crime, which I think says a lot about our often paradoxical, Puritanical, and illogical value system.
For some reason, we love to equate actions with completely unrelated outcomes. For example, I don’t want my students to know I’m a smoker because, in my mind, I equate my smoking with being a bad leader/role model, which, in turn – again, in my mind – might cause my students might think I’m a lousy teacher. I know I’m not a lousy teacher, and even if I were one, it wouldn’t be because I smoke. I happen to be a good teacher with a very nasty vice, and really one thing has nothing to do with the other anyway. But, the faulty relationship is there, and we see it all the time. The bad guy in movies is often a smoker, so we equate smoking with being bad, and this trickles down to all sorts of other assumptions about a person’s character that are, sometimes, in no way related to that initial act. In Herman Cain’s case, the act is sex and the outcome is his ability to be the President of the United States.
We tend to equate extramarital affairs with someone – namely politicians – not being able to do their jobs when one thing has absolutely nothing do with the other. The logical fallacy here always leans to the negative and never the other way. For example, when we learn that Herman Cain has been having an affair for 13 years, why do we not applaud his ability to multitask (I imagine trying to maintain two relationships simultaneously is much like trying to deal with Pakistan and India or Israel and Palestine) or his ability to keep secrets (again, we don’t want classified information getting out, do we?) or his commitment to commitment (not only committed to his wife, but also to a 13-year extramarital relationship. Wow, this guy is crazy dedicated!) or his stamina (I don’t think I have to fill in the blank on this one). I know this sounds nutty, but, if you think about it, the opposite arguments – that he’s immoral, unfaithful and, therefore, unable to run the country – are just as ludicrous.
When we say that someone’s ENTIRE character is flawed because he/she is having an affair, that’s just faulty logic. It’s exactly the same as the aforementioned smoking argument – just because I do a bad thing to my body, doesn’t mean I’m a bad person all around or a bad leader in the classroom. When we say that someone is not fit for public office (or any job really) because he/she is unfaithful in marriage, we’re essentially saying that personal actions will somehow directly affect job performance, which couldn’t possibly be a more outlandish claim. Do we honestly think that the next President is going to cheat on us with Canada or something?
I’m not defending Herman Cain. The fact that he’s an utter and complete moron who doesn’t know squat about domestic or foreign policy wasn’t helping him anyway. That he mistreats women on top of all his other flaws is even more of a setback since women comprise more than half the population. So, am I sad to see Cain go? Of course not (though him staying in helps Obama for sure). But, when the shit hits the fan about Newt being married three times or about Bachman acting as a big bushy beard for her obviously gay husband, I just want us to turn it off and keep on walking. The people who run for office in this country – on both sides of the aisle – already give us enough ammunition to obliterate a small country. We’re picking a president, not a spouse. So let’s leave personal stuff to the gossip rags and keep our heads on straight.
This country is in deep shit. We have a stubborn, infantile, and gridlocked Congress, which has done virtually nothing productive in four years. We have almost 10% of the population unemployed, and people are in debt up to their eyeballs. What we need is a leader, not a saint.