Herman Cain’s once promising campaign for President has been waning in recent weeks, resulting from revelations of harassment and improper relationships with several women. He will soon be holding a press conference to announce the “next steps” in his campaign – which some are predicting is code for dropping out of the race. Whether or not he will continue to seek the Republican nomination remains to be seen. However, political pundits and Internet commentators have heavily focused the conversation on Cain’s wife, Gloria, as a result.
In a recent interview with Fox News, Cain vehemently denied the allegations and decried what he characterized as the Establishment/media’s smear campaign. But he also admitted that he would terminate his campaign if asked to do so by his wife. The New York Times reported the interview in an article entitled, “Wife’s Word to Decide Cain Campaign’s Fate.” Given the gravity of the allegations surrounding the Cain family, one would hope that they would discuss their future together, both politically and privately. At first glance, this seems an innocuous title. In fact, one would hope that partners in any relationship would consult each other before making a monumental decision that affects them both.
But is it fair for male political candidates to blame their wives for their campaign decisions? Jim Newell argues that race resignations or explanations for not running at all are replete with undertones of blame disguised as apologies. He has a point. But is this truly what is happening? Are politicians like Cain and Mitch Daniels blaming their wives for short-circuiting their political agendas? I suppose it could be argued both ways. Newell spells out the argument that, yes, these men are blaming their wives. As such, I will forego any further analysis on that point.
But, playing devil’s advocate, couldn't their decisions be just as easily celebrated as a “win” for feminists? Politics has been considered a “man’s world” for centuries. But by including their partners in their decisions, aren't these men dispelling the notion that male politicians’ wives must stand idly by, that they must get out of the way while their husbands govern the nation? Couldn't it be argued that these men are the antithesis of the phrase, “Behind every good man, there is a good woman?” Instead, they are treating their partners as equals, seeking their full input and standing beside each other in their decisions.
I’m not sure where I stand on the question. I think both arguments could be made with a straight face. But I was surprised by the media’s portrayal/reaction nonetheless. Gawker denounces their statements as thinly-veiled attempts to deflect responsibility. And the New York Times has made Gloria Cain the focus of the story, rather than the accusations themselves and their effect on the Cain family. What do you think?