Is this a transgression too far for Herman Cain?

The former businessman is "reassessing" his campaign amid the allegation of a 13 year affair.

It looks like the campaign of Herman '9-9-9' Cain could have been dealt a final coup de grace following revelations of a 13-year affair with businesswoman Ginger White. In a message to supoprters, Cain has said he will "reassess" the future of his campaign.

These have been a tumultuous few weeks for the former Godfather's Pizza CEO. After unexpectedly becoming the frontrunner in the Republican race, a series of sexual harassment allegations from his past surfaced, seriously denting his poll lead. Cain did his best to brush them off, but White's claims might be harder to discount.

Cain, who strongly refutes White's allegations ("I deny those charges, unequivocally"), previously claimed that the sexual harassment charges were a "witch-hunt" and a "smear campaign" aimed at sabotaging his poll lead. It appears that this approach may have encouraged White to speak out. She told an American TV network:

It bothered me that they were being demonised, sort of ... they were treated as if they were automatically lying, and the burden of proof was on them. I felt bad for them.

If the allegations are proved to be true, it is surprising that Cain's campaign were so blind to these lurking scandals, and that there was no contingency plan in place. Perhaps this is the down side of the very thing that attracted his supporters -- his status as a Washington outsider.

Cain has attempted to discredit her, but the veracity of the claim may be largely irrelevant (as he recognised in his statement, the damage could be done: "We have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud, in some people's minds"). Cain's main support base is the ultra-conservative and anti-Washington Tea Party, who were attracted by his unconventional approach. This transgression of the Seventh Commandment may be a step too far for these religious conservatives.

While Cain insists that the Cain Train is a still-a-rolling -- "9-9-9, 9-9-9. We're doing fine." -- the question remains as to who his supporters will flock to next should his campaign, as expected, concede defeat.

Rick Perry is a likely contender for those votes, as the gap between Cain and current favourite Newt Gingritch seems too hard to bridge. But for Mitt Romney, the chance to run against Obama in 2012 is getting closer and closer. All his campaign has to do is keep up the momentum, keep their heads down, and watch everyone else destroy themselves.

Campaign pictures/Office of Jorge Sharp
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Meet Jorge Sharp, the rising star of Chile’s left who beat right-wingers to running its second city

The 31-year-old human rights lawyer says he is inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s alternative politics as he takes the fight to the Chilean establishment.

Bearded, with shaggy hair, chinos and a plaid shirt, 31-year-old Jorge Sharp does not look like your typical mayor elect. But that does nothing to stop him speaking with the conviction of one.

“Look, Chile is a country that solely operates centrally, as one unit,” he says. “It is not a federal country – the concentration of state functions is very compact. In reality, most of the power is in Santiago. There are many limitations when it comes to introducing significant changes [in local areas].”

In October, Sharp upset Chile’s political status quo by defeating establishment rivals in the mayoral election of Valparaíso, the second city of South America’s first OECD country. He is taking office today.

Often compared to Podemos in Spain, Sharp’s win was significant – not only as yet another example of voters turning against mainstream politics – because it denied Chilean right-wing candidates another seat during local elections that saw them sweep to power across the country.

As the results rolled in, Conservative politicians had managed to snatch dozens of seats from the country’s centre-left coalition, led by President Michelle Bachelet, a member of Chile’s Socialist Party.

Sitting in one of Valparaíso’s many bohemian cafes, Sharp accepts the comparison with Podemos gracefully but is keen to make sure that Chile’s new “autonomous left” movement is seen as distinct.

“What we are doing in Chile is a process that is difficult to compare with other emerging political movements in the world,” he says. “We are a distinct political group and we are a modern force for the left. We are a left that is distinct in our own country and that is different to the left in Spain, in Bolivia, and in Venezuela.”

Sharp’s Autonomous Left movement is not so much a party rather than a group of affiliated individuals who want to change Chilean politics for good. Considering its relatively small size, the so-called Aut Left experienced degrees of success in October.

Chilean voters may have punished Bachelet – also Chile’s first female leader – and her coalition after a number of corruption scandals, but they did not turn against left-wing politics completely. Where they had options, many Chileans voted for newer, younger and independent left-wing candidates. 

“We only had nine candidates and we won three of the races – in Punta Arenas, Antofagasta and Ñuñoa, a district of Santiago,” he says. “We hope that the experience here will help us to articulate a national message for all of Chile.”


Campaign pictures/Office of Jorge Sharp

For Sharp, the success of Jeremy Corbyn, Donald Trump and the pro-Brexit movement are due to people fed up – on a global scale – with their respective countries’ mainstream political parties or candidates. Given that assumption, how would he describe the cause of his own election success?

“The problem in Chile, and also for the people in Valparaíso, is that the resources go to very few people,” he says. “It was a vote to live better, to live differently. Our project for social policy is one that is more sufficient for all the people. It’s a return to democracy, to break the electoral status quo.”   

Sharp – like many – believes that the United States’ Democrat party missed out by passing up the opportunity to break with the status quo and choose Bernie Sanders over the chosen nominee Hillary Clinton. “They would have been better off with Sanders than Clinton,” he believes. 

“The [people] in the US are living through a deep economic crisis. These were the right conditions for Trump. The people weren’t looking for the candidate from the banks or Wall Street, not the ‘establishment’ candidate. The way forward was Sanders.”

Turning to other 2016 geo-political events, he claims Brexit was a case of Britons “looking for an answer to crises” about identity. Elsewhere in South America, the tactics of former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe – who led the “No” vote campaign against peace with the Farc – were “fundamentally undemocratic”.

In the future, Sharp hopes that he and the rest of the Autonomous Left will be better-prepared to take power in higher offices, in order to further reform social policy and politics in Chile.

“For these elections, we weren't unified enough,” he concedes. “For 2017 [when national elections take place], we will have one list of parliamentary candidates and one presidential candidate.”

And while Sharp clearly sympathises with other left-wing movements in countries throughout the world, this is not a call for a unified approach to take on the rise of the right.

“Every country has its own path,” he finishes. “There is no single correct path. What we need to do [in Chile] is articulate a force that’s outside the political mainstream.”

Oli Griffin is a freelance journalist based in Latin America.