The Ben Carson puzzle

The thing that really puzzles me about the Republican primary race is not that Donald Trump is leading but that Ben Carson is in second place. He has no discernible charisma. He has not proposed any significant policies. What exactly is his appeal, other than the fact that he paints an alarming portrait of the imminent collapse of the US and makes the most hyperbolic statements in support of his premise?

Take for example his statement that Obamacare is the worst thing to happen since slavery and is possibly worse than 9/11. Or that the US is very much like Nazi Germany. Or that homosexuality is a choice and drawing comparison between gays and pedophiles. Or that the AP history course in high school is pretty much ISIS propaganda. Or that president Obama has all the appearances of being a psychopath.

His tax plan is based on biblical tithing, which is essentially a flat tax at an even lower rate that Rand Paul’s 14.5% rate, which would be a windfall to wealthy people and bankrupt the country very quickly.

Then take his latest defense of the charge that the Republicans are waging a war on women. He said, referring to the party’s efforts to restrict abortion, “There is no war on women — there may be a war on what’s inside of women, but there is no war on women in this country”.

What the hell does that even mean? How can a war on women’s reproductive systems, or indeed on any part of women, not be a war on women?

Granted, making extreme statements rouses the blood of the Republican base. But why is Carson surging at the expense of the other Republicans who are also no slouches at rabble-rousing rhetoric? Is it because his background as a successful surgeon gives him automatic gravitas? And that being political outsider gives him a boost, the way it has with Trump?

Or is it because of his undoubted skill at using sophistry to evade the consequences of his statements? In other words, is he the Republican successor to Newt Gingrich as “a dumb person’s idea of a smart person“?

But what annoys me the most is that when quizzed about his statements, he hauls out the usual defense of (you guessed it) accusing his questioners of practicing “political correctness”. He is a worse serial abuser of that excuse than even Trump.


  1. says

    What exactly is his appeal, other than the fact that he paints an alarming portrait of the imminent collapse of the US and makes the most hyperbolic statements in support of his premise?

    He’s not Trump. That’s his appeal.

    We saw this at the last election. The republicans thrashed around as they attempted to figure out which candidate was least crazy and least repugnant. The same will happen this time. And when it’s all over they’re going to wail and tear their hair and wonder why they don’t appeal to women and hispanic voters (or anyone else with a working brain)

  2. jaketoadie says

    If I had to guess the “War on what’s inside of women” comment he is referring to abortion, so saying that the left has declared war against fetuses.

  3. jws1 says

    It’s obvious why conservatives like him: he’s black. He allows them to pretend they are not racist.

  4. raven says

    He isn’t even the right kind of xian. Carson is a Seventh Day Adventist.

    The fundies think they are wrong. The Seventh Days think they are the True Xians and everyone else are Fake Xians, and say it often.

    Not as far out as Romney, who wasn’t even a xian.

    But that turns out to not really matter. As long as you hate the right groups, they simply don’t care about religion. The fundies after all, like Trump better and he isn’t at all convincing as a religious kook.

  5. raven says

    It’s probably similar to the last election.

    The second leading candidate was NotRomney. NotRomney was a shapeshifter who went through numerous personas. The ultimate NotRomney ended up being…Romney.

  6. Robert, not Bob says

    I was brought up Seventh Day Adventist. According to what I was taught, the Adventists ought to be denouncing Carson as the Antichrist (or something similar). It really gives me the willies imagining people I went to school with believing the things he says (much less myself-but there’s been a generation of radicalization since I left the church).

  7. atheistblog says

    Don’t you know, he is a Black Anchor Bobby Jindal. You should hate your heritage, you should disparage your ethnicity, you should suck up the white supremacy, then you will be allowed as a sidekick. Like all the GOP women who are virtually against the interest of women, you should be just a sycophant to the corporate interest, that’s enough. You should say two words, bible, jesus, and worship money, hate anything other than these three, then you are welcome in GOP.

    By the democrat worship money as well, they just won’t tell you openly. They are just as fraud as GOP.

  8. doublereed says

    I got the impression that his popularity doesn’t come from his politics at all, but his best-selling books. People have read his books. I haven’t read them, but from what it sounds like is that it’s quite an inspiring story in the medical profession. He commands respect because of his distinguished position in medicine, and he even credits all of it to faith and religion.

    So all his bizarre positions on abortion or race or whatever, I don’t think it affects his appeal either way. He’s just very inspiring, especially to the religious and people love him for that.

  9. says

    He has no discernible charisma.

    I’ve been wondering if that is some of it. Evangelicals are perhaps realizing that the wild and whacky Michelle Bachmanns and Rick Santorums (and even Donald Trumps) of presidential candidates are unelectable because they scare off a lot of voters. Perhaps they see Carson as a potential solution to this problem. He says a lot of the same wild and whacky things that they like to hear, but the tone in which he says these things is not wild and whacky. Perhaps they are hoping people will overlook the substance of his statements.

    I would agree that there may indeed be that ” dumb person’s idea of a smart person“ thing going for him, too.

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