Sunday, November 1, 2015

Ben Carson is at or near...

...the top of most Republican polls these days. And if you're at all like me, you're probably wondering why. (My favorite tweet: "Ben Carson looks like he just woke up from a long, late afternoon nap and can't find his glasses.")

But, seriously, Dr. Carson is black and the GOP is lily-white, right? And for an accomplished pediatric neurosurgeon, this guy sure says some "eccentric" things, doesn't he?

So what the heck is going on here?

I have some thoughts (surprised?) and a couple of op-ed pieces in the Times this morning helped crystallize my opinions.

First of all, why do Republicans seem to like black conservatives so much? Or, better yet, why do (mostly white) Republicans seem to like black guys who are extremely conservative? (Besides Dr. Carson, former presidential candidate Alan Keyes, far left, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, second from left, are two others that immediately come to mind. I won't even mention this guy.)

Now, I have my opinion, but was having trouble articulating it until I read Nicholas Kristof's column today, "Ben Carson Is Inspiring, but Not for President." This isn't exactly how I would put it, but it's close:

One reason he is popular on the right, I think, is that many conservatives feel bruised by liberals’ jibes that they are closet racists or have no compassion for the poor. Supporting Carson validates their self-perception as good people who are doing the right thing by slashing social programs.

I'm going to try to improve on that, but I'm afraid what I'm about to say might be considered a little harsh. Are you ready? Most Republicans I know (and I'm related to some) are closet racists. (Some are not even in the closet.) To be honest, they think most blacks are good for nothing who just need to stop having babies out of wedlock, stop taking drugs, stop shooting each other in the ghetto, stay in school and out of jail, go to college (if they can), get a job, get married, stay married, and essentially stay on the strait and narrow. (And, yes, it's "strait" and narrow, not "straight" and narrow; I looked it up.) After all, they seem to think, our [insert relevant ethnic group] did that and look how well we turned out. Why, just look at all the recent immigrants -- see how well they're doing?

Does that sound at all like your Thanksgiving table?

So, along comes Dr. Carson who basically reinforces everything they already "know" about lazy blacks and counter-productive government programs and they say, "Yes! Yes! He's right! And that proves it: we were right all along. If a black guy thinks that way, then it must be true, right? We need to elect this man president!"

(The whole evangelical Christian aspect of Carson's persona is just icing on the cake. And there's other stuff at work here, too. Republicans seem to believe that blacks, women, Latinos, etc. will vote for the GOP if you just put a [fill in the blank] on the ticket -- never mind policies that mostly benefit rich, white people.)

My second thought on Dr. Carson is, How can such a smart guy seem so ill-informed? (Honestly, when he talks about anything beyond his wheelhouse, i. e., medicine, he sounds like a complete ignoramus.) And finally, how is it that someone so ignorant, and with no government experience, thinks he can be president of the United States?

The other piece in the Times, "It’s Not Brain Surgery, Ben Carson," by

at a National Prayer Breakfast in 2013. And conservatives went nuts. "This man should run for president! Not only is he a black man who is extremely conservative" (see above) and "stood up to Obama," but "he's also a highly intelligent and distinguished brain surgeon." Jackpot!

And Carson? Well, I'll bet he's thinking, I am a highly intelligent man -- and a doctor! -- which means I'm the smartest guy in every room I've ever been in. And this whole president of the United States stuff? How hard can it be? After all, it isn't brain surgery! And, so, like Mr. Trump, Dr. Carson thinks he can assume the highest office in the land without any relevant experience because, hey, he's a doctor. But what's really scary about Carson is that, just like running a restaurant, being the Leader of the Free World, as we used to say, is a lot harder than it looks. And I'm afraid -- like Andrea Mitchell once said about another dangerously naive person, Sarah Palin -- Dr. Carson doesn't know what he doesn't know. 

But the bottom line here is: Don't worry, folks, neither one of these guys is going to be president. In fact, they'll both probably wilt long before Super Tuesday in March. At least I hope so!

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