If anyone ever doubted how little women matter to the GOP, just look at the continuing rise of Herman Cain’s poll numbers after he was accused of sexual harassment by three — now four — women.
The most recent allegations, from Sharon Bialek, a Chicago-area woman, may yet change that: she has stepped forward and lent her face and name to these charges, which will make it a lot tougher to pretend they don’t exist. Also, her story is graphic and disturbing.
Still, the Cain campaign is trying to pretend the accusations don’t exist. “All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false. Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone,” the Cain folks said in a statement this afternoon.
Really? No one? So all four women are making it up? The National Restaurant association paid out $45,000 to one of his accusers for what then? Surely, there was something there or the NRA would have dismissed her charges and gone on with its business.
I understand Cain serves an important function in the GOP: he gives the party a way to deny or at least balance its racist elements; he provides the only note of humor in the Republican field (Sorry, Jon Huntsman, but your attempts at humor are too weird for me); and he serves as a mouthpiece for the Koch brothers, again providing cover for racists without actually having to worry about his election.
The thing is, Cain’s campaign has done better than anyone expected. No, I don’t think he ever really had a shot at the nomination, but he was looking good for the second slot. Those chances are probably out the window right now. Mitt Romney, the likely nominee, is too cautious to risk these kinds of eruptions (plus, he’s been putting serious money into courting Nikki Hailey, who brings the south, women and a few stragglers of color …) And Rick Perry, the only other one with a real chance, doesn’t need anything Cain brings — the evangelicals, the Koch connection.
What’s disturbing about the most recent allegations against Cain isn’t just what these women say he did but that, as in the debates, both the Republican candidates and audience seem utterly indifferent to the potential victims.
It would behoove the party if anyone of their current flock of potential nominees would step up and, while giving Cain the legal benefit of the doubt, forcefully condemned the harassment of women, and the behavior that these particular women have described.
It’s just never, ever, okay.