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Young Republicans on Cain: 'It can be rough ... being a black conservative'

By Stacey Samuel, CNN
updated 8:04 AM EST, Mon December 5, 2011
Herman Cain's candidacy, which he suspended Saturday, resonated among some black conservatives.
Herman Cain's candidacy, which he suspended Saturday, resonated among some black conservatives.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some young black conservatives view Cain's downfall with mixed feelings
  • His many mistakes, they say, hurt their cause
  • But his early success and tea party support show the movement could embrace a black conservative

Washington (CNN) -- As the now-former presidential hopeful Herman Cain moves to Plan B, black conservatives say it's time to stick with their Plan A, and use the leverage that the GOP candidate gave them.

"The movement should ...work actively, consistently, and thoroughly to bring the conservative message to new audiences with a firm grasp of the issues," conservative commentator Lenny McAllister said.

But Cain's rise in the polls -- strong enough to have been taken seriously as a legitimate candidate — seems as unlikely as the rise of a young, black conservative Republican movement.

Both seem an anomaly, especially among the African-American community.

"It can be rough out there being a black conservative, particularly in Washington D.C. and New York City," said Crystal Wright, who runs the blog ConservativeBlackChick.com. "We're angry, we're frustrated and we want to do something about it."

Wright said the Republican Party is fast becoming an alternative for African-Americans disproportionately affected by the failing economy. "What we believe is to vote Barack Obama out of office," she said.

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Black conservatives say high profile GOP candidates like Cain and Michael Steele, who once headed the Republican National Committee, have helped their visibility and recruitment efforts.

"More people have come out of the closet as black republicans," McAllister said.

But all agree, there is no collective voice among black conservatives, and Cain certainly didn't enjoy all of their support.

"... Even prior to the allegations, all of the opportunities where he misspoke and contradicted himself on different things," McAllister said of Cain's announcement to suspend his campaign today.

"A stronger campaign would have done a lot more for black conservatism. So there are definitely some out there who feel a little betrayed and feel a sense of disappointment, and a lost opportunity as well," he adds.

Earlier this week, another tea party darling -- and one of two black Congressmen -- Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) called for Cain to step down, saying on WMAL's morning radio show,"... he probably needs to understand that he's a distracter for what's going on right now and we should move on."

But Cain's legacy isn't lost on those who say they were happy to see a face like theirs in the race and with a message closely aligned with what they believe.

"There were probably many black conservatives who weren't sure if the tea party movement were accepting of them, but Cain proved that they were," says Richard Ivory, Publisher of the HipHopRepublican.com, which caters to urban republican and libertarian voters of color.

Ivory, whose site has had nearly a million views since its launch in 2004, says, "I think the best thing that Cain has done for the black [conservative movement] ... and this is one thing that no one can take away from him -- is that Cain has shown that a black conservative in the future can actually rise through the Republican primary to become president of the United States, if he's very strategic."

Even though Cain's strategy failed to keep him in the race for the Republican nomination, it succeeded in adding his voice to the political dialogue within the diverse landscape of conservative African-American voters.

"Just because my parents vote Democrat party, why am I really voting for them?" said Wright, whose mission is to encourage more black voters to examine candidates rather than vote emotionally.

She thinks the GOP's policy stances on education, family values and tax rates for entrepreneurs will attract many among the young and college educated.

"The pulse of black conservatism rests primarily with its younger generation," said Ivory, adding that they have been "watching curiously, via blogs, Facebook and Twitter, but who for the most part aren't huge fans of any of the current candidates."

So what gains can those pushing the conservative black movement make going forward?

"I think black Republicans understand that you have to be within the system to make changes to the system, where there needs to be changes made to the system," McAllister said.

But, for now Cain says, "We will change it from the outside."

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