Herman Cain, star of the Tea Party Convention, and the pick of many of its members for president, may be the worst thing that has happened to the radical platform for the Republican agenda.

This week he said he's been called a racist for saying he would refuse to appoint ANY Muslims to his cabinet if elected.

“I will not. And here’s why. There is this creeping attempt, this attempt, to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government,” Cain said. “It does not belong in our government. This is what happened to Europe. And little by little, to try to be politically correct, they made this little change. They made this little change. And now they’ve got a social problem that they don’t know what to do with hardly.”

So Muslims are just a social problem, a sort of virus that democracies catch that infects the body politic. They should be ostracized, they should be condemned to the margins. I remember this speech in the original German.

Last month Herman won a straw poll at a conference organized by the Tea Party. That level of support makes it clear that conservative candidates sense that Muslim bashing will be a handy vote catcher in 2012.

Already serial adulterer Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have dipped a foot in anti-sharia rabble rousing. Congressman Peter King has held hearings into "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response." Michele Bachmann has said "not all cultures are equal, not all values are equal."

I think it's already safe to say that they've found their theme. Tea party candidates like Herman Cain and Bachmann are playing not to the brightest hopes but to the deepest suspicions of the people who support them. It's going to be an ugly and destructive political season indeed if they follow this appalling line through to the election.

Cain grew up in the segregated South. He ought to know a bigot when he sees one.