The news just a few days ago that Herman Cain was dropping out of the race to become the Republican nominee for the 2012 presidential race kind of made me sad.
It wasn't as if I was going to vote for him. It's not even that I think he'd be one of the GOP candidates most likely to convince America that it's better off giving President Barack Obama another term. Mostly, it was because I was amused at the admittedly slim possibility he might actually win the nomination. Then I could watch the Republican Party try to spin a guy who headed one of the worst pizza chains in the known universe and understands less about foreign policy now than Obama did when he was a community organizer as some sort of "Republican Obama."
But more broadly, I'm also sad to see one of the several signs of the GOP's desperate attempt to seem diverse and representative of America exit the race. Now, we're down to Michele Bachmann to represent women (since Sarah Palin couldn't be bothered to stick around long enough to pretend her "run" was more than a stunt), Mitt Romney to represent religious diversity as a Mormon (since as any good GOP member will tell you, that doesn't count as Christian), and Ron Paul to provide, um, well, representation for Objectivists (who don't normally get much play after high school or maybe college, when selfish, shallow teens who read Atlas Shrugged eventually outgrow that nonsense).
Without Cain, it looks pretty pathetic now diversity-wise.
But I think it is hilarious how crowded the arena remains as Republicans jockey for the honor of taking on Obama in 2012. I think Obama's lasting legacy will not have been to be America's first black president (many still insist that Bill Clinton has that honor and frankly, he might be more "black" than Obama). Nor will it be to have ushered in a post-racial America (since, if anything, his arrival in the Oval Office has only intensified racist feelings among racists and brought out racism in people we didn't realize suffered from that affliction).
No, his legacy will be to have single-handedly made damn near the entire GOP lose its collective shit and do more race-baiting and race-bashing than they've done in decades — while simultaneously trying to show how open they are to welcoming other races. After all, George W. Bush has a half-Latino nephew and there was that black guy who showed up at the rallies where people were protesting Obama while carrying automatic weapons to support the right-wing lunacy.
And then there was Cain, who arrived to show that the GOP couldn't be racist, since it let him in, and who tried to act like he's never encountered racism in his life, which is about as impossible as things can get, since blacks can manage to get racism even from fellow blacks (I speak from personal experience).
Now he's gone. No doubt Bachmann will fall by the wayside soon, since her major claims to fame these days are making Palin look smart, making Rick Perry look almost level-headed, and making Rick Santorum not look quite as crazy as he really is (if only because he doesn't have Bachmann's "crazy eyes"). Once she's gone, we lose the pretense that the GOP gives a crap about women's well-being, rights, or social standing.
With Newt Gingrich now bringing his special brand of out-of-touch grumpy old crazy dude bashing of poor people (among other hyperbolic opinions that would scare off most independents), that just makes Mitt Romney look even more peachy than he already did by comparison to everyone else, even though he can't stand firm on any position when the political winds get above five miles per hour.
So, there's that: The GOP can still say it's religiously diverse.
Shay Stewart-Bouley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.