In theory, we all love the idea of Mr. Citizen coming to Washington to shake things up.
In reality, we’re just a little frightened at the prospect. What if Mr. or Ms. Citizen unpacks and sets up at 1600 and suddenly realizes he doesn’t have the slightest idea of how to get a piece of legislation through Congress—or worse?
That fear is one reason many of us are more comfortable with the centaur candidacy of Mitt Romney—part free market beast but with the human(e) head of government experience—than with Herman Cain’s.
I love Herman Cain’s personality, but I am not alone in worrying about his lack of government experience. Would I feel more at ease if Cain were emerging into the spotlight from, say, an endowed chair at some simpatico think tank?
I asked myself this question when I read Katrina Trinko’s excellent piece, “Cain, The Restaurant Years” on National Review. She makes the point that Cain has not only been successful in business but that he has been a relentless warrior for the free-market system:
In the 1990s, Herman Cain went to Washington and fought against minimum-wage hikes, worked to make welfare reform succeed, and advocated free trade.
He did so, not from a perch at a conservative think tank, but as chairman and CEO of the National Restaurant Association.
Cain didn’t just use the National Restaurant Association to further free-enterprise aims. He also worked to make the group significantly more influential than it had been.
Cain grew the association and promoted civic mindedness, including his practice of hiring the homeless, even though Cain was candid that the homeless are more difficult to train than other employees.
Cain can understand why hikes in the minimum wage create higher unemployment. I don’t know if he’s read Walter Williams on the subject (he most likely has), but his life in business has taught him the same lessons.
Cain has waged some battles that, should he be on the GOP ticket, will make him a hate object for Nanny State types. (He fought against a measure to reduce the blood alcohol level for driving from .1 to .08.)
Still, Citizen Cain can make the case for the value of work like almost no other politician:
But he also seemed to spend time in those years mulling over how to help draw people to the advantages of working even a low-paying job rather than none. “A radio host in Omaha asked me, ‘What do you say to a young man who can go out and make a lot of money selling drugs and doesn’t want your $4.75-an-hour job at Godfather’s?’” Cain told the Omaha World-Herald in 1996. “My response is this: There are two ways you can live your life — looking in front of you or looking over your shoulder. Show me some old drug dealers. Show me some old gang members. You decide whether you want to get old and look forward to the rest of your life, or whether you want to look behind you all the time and never see old.”
I'm not the only conservative I know wrestling with the notion of putting on the ticket a guy who probably thinks you have to go to a doctor if you contract a disease known as Potomoc Fever.