Why Ben Carson Is The Least Appealing Presidential Candidate
It may be hard to be politically correct these days, with so many potentially inflammatory issues to talk about, like racial inequities in Baltimore, religious fundamentalism in the Middle East, and states taking a stand on abortion.
But presidential candidate is in no rush to find a way to verbally navigate around these topics.
In spite of the fact that he is in dire need of a base of political support (just 5 percent of voters have indicated they would choose him), he hasn't exercised much caution in professing his ideas.
Unlike Carly Fiorina, who also announced her candidacy on Monday, Carson has made it clear exactly where he stands... even on subjects like foreign policy, which he has very little background in.
Dr. Ben Carson is known for his controversial statements.
He compared American patriots to ISIS because of their willingness to die for their beliefs; he has stated that homosexuality is clearly a choice, as demonstrated by men in prison; he has also dismissed any link between structural racism and poverty -- surprising to some because of his upbringing in a largely black, poorer neighborhood.
Carson has also made no effort to hide his ignorance on international issues. In April, he remarked that the Baltic states should become involved in NATO, even though they are already members.
On a trip to Israel, he asked what the role of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) was, then asked why they did not just have the same system that the US does.
If ever someone wondered if he was a politician, his inability to speak tactfully would make it clear that he comes from a whole different world.
The Unlikely Candidate
Ben Carson's background would surprise many. As a black man raised by a single mother in a Detroit, he seemed less likely to become conservative than a young President Obama.
While Obama was raised by his mother and grandparents, and attended an elite private school in Hawaii as a child, Carson was living in downtown Detroit getting into fights and being called a "dummy" by his classmates.
His mother encouraged him to read lots of books, which ultimately led him to become a well educated, and internationally-renowned neurosurgeon who performed the first successful separation of conjoined twins.
He went on to become a pillar of the black community. His book "Gifted Hands" inspired many young black men and women to pursue their own dreams, despite challenging upbringings.
He became a symbol of upward mobility for many underprivileged young people.
All of this lends itself to the idea that a young Ben Carson would grow up to be a fired-up, impassioned liberal advocating for minority rights and appealing mostly to an African-American audience.
But just as Carson's comments take everyone by surprise, so too does his current position as a conservative who attracts crowds of older, white men to his speeches.
One Vox article portrays his outlook on government assistance to those in need as dismissive, describing how he has emphasized the "excuses" poor people make to to remain victims.
Whom Does He Appeal To?
In 2014, Carson ranked second in a CNN ORC Poll of all Republican presidential hopefuls. But his support remains low, perhaps because the young black men and women who once saw inspiration in him are now asking, "How dare you, sir?"
Under the Obama administration, blacks today may have ended up worse off than before. Last year, black unemployment was still double the rate of white unemployment, and the black poverty rate appears to have risen.
Now would be an ideal time for a candidate who could represent a minority group in a way that was meaningful to them -- not to older, white, male conservatives.
But for Ben Carson, race is less of a focus. He has said that he wants to "deemphasize race" in order help people focus more on the integrity of the individual.
This sounds like a noble cause, but at the moment, deemphasizing race means neglecting to talk about an issue that matters a lot right now (see Baltimore riots, Ferguson) For Carson, it means creating more stringent voter ID laws that many consider discriminatory, and saying that race, as an issue, "doesn't mean that much to me."
In a recent article in The Atlantic, reporter David A. Graham writes:
It's very hard to win the nomination or raise significant money without a grounding in politics and experienced staffers...you have to learn how to speak like a politician and avoid all potholes, while already in the harsh glare of the media spotlight.
Carson doesn't have a grounding in politics, and certainly doesn't speak like a politician. But perhaps most glaringly of all, he seems to have no desire to avoid potholes.
Instead of appealing to a community that once seemed to revere him, Carson is ready to call them out for making excuses. He has compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia, and called President Obama a "psychopath."
As Carson continues to run right over the potholes that inevitably come up when one runs for office, it will be fascinating to see how far down the road he gets.
It seems unlikely that his inability to exercise restraint in his comments, and his unwillingness to submit to "political correctness," will lead him to success.
But maybe Carson doesn't care. His irreverence may be a sign that he doesn't feel the need to actually win over voters or gain any friends.
He might just prefer to incite media firestorm after media firestorm, without any regard for where it gets him on the long road to the Oval office.
He might not be in it to win it, but he's definitely one candidate who wants his ideas to be heard, and his values to help change what a Republican candidate looks like.
Citations: Two Background Players Join The 2016 Fray Carly Fiorina And Ben Carson (Five Thirty Eight), Foxs OReilly Excuses Ben Carsons Comparison Of ISIS To American Patriots (Media Matters for America), Ben Carson apologizes for comments on gay people (CNN), What If Sarah Palin Were a Brain Surgeon (GQ), On Ben Carson Fake History and Obamacare (The Huffington Post), Ben Carson on the Issues (The New York Times), How Ben Carson went from black hero to Republican presidential candidate (Vox), 5 Things You Should Know About Ben Carson (NPR), BEN CARSON IM RUNNING AS REPUBLICAN, YOU HAVE TO RUN AS SOMETHING (Breitbart), Ben Carson Obamas a well dressed psychopath (MSNBC), The Startling Hypocrisy Of Conservative Icon Dr Ben Carson (Liberals Unite), CNN ORC Poll (CNN ), Obama and the Black Vote (The Wall Street Journal), Dr Carson We Need to Strongly Deemphasize Race in America (Conservative Tribune), Voter ID law deemed as racially discriminatory could get new life (MSNBC), Chris Hayes Grills Ben Carson on Race Is Racism Really Contrived by Liberals (Media ite), Ben Carson On Comparing Gays To Pedophiles Sorry If I Offended Anyone (Talking Points Memo), That time Ben Carson called President Obama a psychopath (The Washington Post), Ben Carson I Refuse To Give Into The PC Police (Truth Revolt)