Ach du Liebe, Dr. Carson!
From the moment Ben Carson entered the public eye, bashing Obamacare at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, many conservatives clamored for him to run for president. Even when Carson indicated that he would not run, groups–often nefarious groups–collected money in his name, claiming that they needed the money to urge Carson to run. His soft-spokenness, unapologetic appeal to principle and religious dedication endear him to conservatives tired of the self-promotional bombast of typical politicians. For Republicans looking to change the Party image, the black Carson offers a rebuttal against the stereotype that the GOP regards blacks with hostility. Carson writes about his successful career as a neurosurgeon in “Gifted Hands,” the most popular of his books. Before him, no one had ever successfully separated craniopagus twins. That said, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that Dr. Carson’s newly announced presidential campaign’s greatest weaknesses may be the candidate himself.
In any presidential campaign, the potential nominee must be supremely accomplished, as is Dr. Carson. However, Americans have yet to decide what kind of experience best translates to being a good president. So far, we appear to favor Ivy League lawyers (sorry, Scott Walker), governors (sorry, Rand Paul), and distinguished military service personnel (sorry, John Kerry). Each of those fields, and elements of others, correspond to some responsibility of the Executive office. This means less to Dr. Carson whose success in an admirable profession will hardly disqualify him. The point, though, is that in the absence of knowing what profession best predicts the skill set necessary to be a successful president, Americans faced with fields of accomplished candidates look for more superficial traits–namely those that make a candidate a good campaigner. Dr. Carson, for all of his accomplishments, fails where it matters the most–as a politician.
“I gotta tell you something. I’m not politically correct,” Carson said during his official presidential announcement. “I’m not a politician. I don’t want to be a politician. Politicians do what is politically expedient. I want to do what’s right.”
Carson’s line, appropriately striking a populist tone, attempts to cover him for some egregious remarks he’s made–remarks that he must renounce. Saying that “Obamacare is really…the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” and then doubling down, saying that “it is slavery,” represents a monumentally stupid statement. Todd Akin stupid. (Abortion ranks higher than Obamacare on the spectrum of morally reprehensible policies, I think.) In March, Carson apologized for saying that prison turns straight men gay. This statement brought such a backlash, that Carson refuses to address gay rights issues (a pivotal topic in America right now) for the rest of the presidential campaign.
Then, there is his comparing America to Nazi Germany–implying that the IRS equates to the SS or the Gestapo. One needn’t be Jewish to take offense to a comparison that trivializes the most sinister part of Nazism–the genocide. Still, Carson stands by his comments, and this represents a problem for Republicans who want to win the 2016 election.
Clearly, Democrats have a problem: their wealthiest candidate also has the best name recognition and potentially gives the Party four more years to develop new talent that is sorely lacking. This candidate, though, is Hillary Clinton: the secretive, corrupt, overly-ambitious, unaccomplished Hillary Clinton. Democrats look across the aisle and see formidable Republican candidates assembling to take control of the third branch of our three branch government, and potentially secure further control in the Supreme Court by replacing aging conservative judges and perhaps even Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The left’s best chance to denigrate the Republican Party is to paint the candidates as out of touch extremists, as clowns, as unserious. Just as Akin’s comments hurt the entire Republican field in 2012, forcing candidates outside of Missouri to speak to Akin’s gaffe, Democrats are always on the lookout for another candidate that can help them advance their narrative and direct the electorate to discuss a stupid statement rather than the issues at hand. Alexandra Jaffe, writing about Carson’s Nazi Germany statement for CNN.com, writes: “Carson’s unapologetic, outspoken style has contributed to his meteoric rise within the conservative movement and the Republican Party more broadly…” The subtext of Jaffe’s statement is that conservatives like Carson’s crazy statements, and his egotistical refusal to walk them back. Between Ted Cruz’ government shutdown and Ben Carson’s “wrong-but-strong” proclamations, Democrats have strong opportunities to smear the party–perhaps even well enough to damage our aspirations.
While I hope that Dr. Carson contributes positively to the 2016 race, I highly doubt that Republicans will make the mistake of nominating him to represent the party in this important election. The accomplished, Dr. Carson may do well as Surgeon General; or as a beloved conservative speaker, campaigner, and writer. Whether or not he wins the nomination, though, I don’t foresee him leading the United States into a Fourth Reich.