Ben Carson Will Not Win The Republican Nomination

He’s black. That’s really all there is to it. The Republicans will not nominate a black man. There is no greater evidence needed than the fact that the current party front-runner is Donald Trump, whose sole demographic is frightened, angry white men. Donald Trump may not be a racist; maybe he just plays one on TV. If that’s the case, he plays it well. More significantly, it’s part of the formula that has him a front-runner.

Carson actually came across as one of the more reasonable and thoughtful candidates in the first Republican primary, so it’s a shame that he has no chance. I hope he sticks around a while at least, because he’s said some pretty crazy things before and I’d like to know if that’s just a lame attempt at pandering to the lunatic base of the Republican party and unrepresentative of his actual views, or if he’s as unhinged as the liberal highlight reels like to paint him.

In any case, Ben Carson is the wrong shade of white to win the nomination for president for the Republican party. He’s polling neck and neck with Trump in Iowa now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything–for either of them. There is a powerful impulse for the Republican party to prove it isn’t racist or sexist, and that is likely what is happening here: the polls are being goosed by people wanting to prove they’d vote for the black candidate. In fairness, the same phenomenon afflicts the Democratic party, where black candidates also do better in pre election polls than they do at the ballot box, even when they win. Barack Obama was the exception to the rule. It should be noted that Herman Cain was leading at about this point in the 2012 election but suffered a scandal that permanently crippled his campaign. I would submit that we can expect the same for Ben Carson. I don’t know that it will be sexual harassment or adultery, but there will be, before it comes time to actually nominate the Republican candidate, some sordid incident or challenge to his credibility that will give Republicans a reason not to vote for him–“I would absolutely vote for a black candidate but Ben Carson can’t win because. . . ”

Note that Bill Clinton was well-known as a serial philanderer well into the election, Newt Gingrich married all of his affairs, David Vitter solicited prostitutes, Steve LaTourette got caught, married his mistress, and then served another ten years before retiring. I’m not going to say there’s a racial element in treatment of affairs; Gary Condit and John Edwards saw their political careers terminated because of affairs and countless others have resigned, but in the Condit case there was a dead intern and in the Edwards case he was banging someone while his wife was dying of cancer, so those two cranked the sordid up to 11. Cain’s alleged affairs simply provided an excuse not to vote for him.

It will be interesting to see why Republicans don’t vote for Carson, but I am confident there will come a “I would love to vote for Carson but he can’t win because. . .” moment for him. The polls this early are utterly irrelevant. Like college football rankings, it’s possible for the pre-season #1 to win the national championship–it’s happened a few times; not many, but a few–but starting the season at #1 is statistically almost a curse. Trump and Carson are doing well in Iowa, Trump is the ostensible leader of the pack, but we’re still in the preseason–where the scores don’t count yet.

I confess to being surprised by Carson in the first Republican Primary debate. He was the only candidate who impressed me on the whole stage. If I were to judge the Republican lineup solely on the August 6th debate, Carson would be my choice. Unfortunately for Carson, I follow politics and am aware of other things he has said before:

Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.” And it is in a way, it is slavery, because it is making all of us subservient to the government. And it was never about healthcare, it was about control.” – 2013 Value Voters Summit

I think when most people, when they finish [AP American History] they’d be ready to sign up for ISIS.” – Speech before the Center for Security Policy’s National Security Action Summit

I mean, [our so­ci­ety is] very much like Nazi Ger­many. And I know you’re not sup­posed to say ‘Nazi Ger­many,’ but I don’t care about polit­ic­al cor­rect­ness. You know, you had a gov­ern­ment us­ing its tools to in­tim­id­ate the pop­u­la­tion. We now live in a so­ci­ety where people are afraid to say what they ac­tu­ally be­lieve. And it’s because of the PC police, it’s because of politicians, it’s because of news.” – 2014 New York Meeting

This is some seriously weird shit to say. The Affordable Care Act is exactly nothing like slavery. Maybe the fact that this needs to be explained to a black man in 2015 means we’ve come a long way since Roots (and, by extension, slavery for that matter), but for me it’s a little disconcerting. His lament against advanced history courses seems to be that they aren’t nationalist propaganda and instead teach, well. . . history. As for his claim about Nazi Germany, that’s just batshit insane. Saying the wrong thing in public in Nazi Germany landed you in a government death camp. That doesn’t happen here. Saying the wrong thing if you are a celebrity or politician can cost you, yes–in the eyes of the public and the media. It’s hardly the same. Donald Trump’s “Mexicans are rapists” rant cost him some contracts and television appearances. It made him the object of scorn for pundits, bloggers and comedians. On the other hand, it gave him a huge jump in the Republican primary polls. Republicans may not be racist, but comments the general public tends to find racist seem to resonate with Republican voters, by some odd coincidence. Still, until we see Donald Trump locked up in a camp waiting to be gassed, let’s lay off the “very much like Nazi Germany” comparisons because they are just stupid.

And this brings me back to my original point: The fact that Donald Trump can make racist comments and actually climb in the Republican polls does not bode well for a Carson campaign. Regardless of his brilliant professional achievements or his low-key  but solid performance in the first debate, for Republican voters Ben Carson is still a darker shade of pale.

Donald Trump is Full of Shit

Perhaps that’s not the most austere or politically correct headline, but since Trump’s appeal seems to be that “it may not be presented in a pristine, PC way, but we’ve been having that crap pushed to us for the past 40 years” and “he’s not afraid to tell it like it is,”  It seems appropriate. I haven’t really figured out what Trump is doing–I will do that analysis in another post–but what I do know is Trump hasn’t made a single campaign promise he can deliver on. I am unclear on whether this is because he doesn’t actually understand the American system of government, that he’s just making stuff up to appear and feel powerful and competent, or that he simply plans to overthrow the Constitution in favor of a fascist dictatorship if elected.

Given what we’ve seen from him so far, none of these are implausible. In any case, Donald Trump’s campaign mouth is writing checks his presidential ass won’t be able to cash in the unlikely event he gets elected (he won’t, so nobody should be worried about that).

Let’s review:

Wall Along The Border

There will be no wall along the border. He boasts that a 94 story building is more complicated than a 1900 mile wall. This is something that sounds good at first but falls apart upon basic scrutiny. For this wall to be anything more than a symbolic boondoggle, it has to be wired, has to have power, cameras, sensors to detect people tunneling under, sensors to detect people chiseling through, sensors to detect people going over. I’m not knocking the complexity of a 94 story building, but there is over a century of experience with that. Trump is not a “builder,” as he claims, he’s a guy who hires architects and builders to figure out how to do things. There are lots of people around the world with experience building a 94 story building one can hire, if that is the goal. Nobody in the world has any experience building the wall he describes. And he has no clue how we will pay for it, which leads to his next wildly impractical promise:

Mexico Will Pay For It

Mexico has already said they won’t, and the only way Trump could initiate this is by violating NAFTA and imposing tariffs on Mexican goods. This would be illegal and also could launch a trade war with Mexico.
More likely, they would simply appeal to the WTO who would almost certainly find in their favor and order the tariffs removed. Bush tried this with steel tariffs in 2002, and was forced to back down. The United States doesn’t just get to bill other countries. One can almost hear Trump saying “you know what, if they don’t pay, I will sue them for it. That might be fun. I’m good at it.”  It sounds tough, it sounds strong, and it sounds unrealistic. This is one of those claims that make it appear that Donald Trump thinks he’s running for President of the United States in an action blockbuster movie, not the real world. It’s one of many that sound like that.

He Will Create Jobs

Trump doesn’t know anything about creating jobs. Trump is a wealthy businessman who hires people. There is a difference, and it isn’t semantic. Creating jobs means expanding commerce in new ways that create a higher demand for labor. Trump has never done this. He doesn’t innovate, he just builds a new skyscraper or golf course and hires people to design and build it. The jobs end when the project is complete. Everyone working on constructing one of his projects does not get a position within the business entity they constructed, they get to find a new project to work on. This is the difference between creating jobs and hiring people. By contrast, the birth of the Internet created jobs. There are jobs today that didn’t exist when then Senator Al Gore pushed through the legislation that made it possible. Unless Trump’s plan is to just hire everybody, the way Rick Perry “created jobs,” Trump has no job creation experience relevant to his claims. On a side note, former Washington D.C. mayor Marion Barry was quite successful at putting people on the government payroll, so there are precedents.

He Will End Birthright Citizenship

No. Just no. Contrary to his argument that it could be handled with an act by Congress, we’re talking about the 14th Amendment here. That means it’s part of the Constitution, which–not to be glib–trumps Trump’s assertion. In his confrontation with Jorge Ramos, Trumps cites “some of the greatest legal scholars” to support his claim but–consistent with his pathological lack of specificity–fails to name a single one. This would actually have been a great moment to name a credible legal scholar or two, but he defaults to his usual “I’ve talked to some people and they are much more versed than you in this and they agree with me” line of bullshit reason.

The 14th Amendment is pretty clear:

Section 1

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In short, there is no “unless the mother was here for just one day” clause or other exception he likes to cite. There are no “great legal scholars” who agree with his position, but there are a lot of right wing pundits and scribes who insist he’s right–perhaps Trump has the two confused, but I see shades of McCarthy’s “I have a list of Communists” improvisational pomposity in arguments like this and the utter nonsense he babbles on every subject.

Common Core

Trump opposes Common Core, which would be reasonable except his position on it is utterly ridiculous:  “Common Core is a disaster. . . We have to end [it]. Education has to be local.”

The whole point of Common Core is to localize educational content and curriculum while adhering to broad national standards. In other words, schools teach how they need to teach to reach their students. Only the standards are national. How local schools achieve them is supposed to be up to them. The failure of Common Core isn’t in the concept, it’s in how it’s being implemented. The local schools are, to be Trump-ly blunt about it, screwing it up–another topic that deserves its own post. He can’t deliver a better alternative to making education local unless he changes the cover page to the Common Core standards and puts “Education The Trump Way” on it. Which, really, is probably what he would do–over a steely gazed picture of himself.

He Will Make America Great Again

I am not even sure what this means, but if Trump plans to make America great, he has his work cut out for him. He would need to reform our prison system to reduce our inmate population and recidivism rates, rebuild our infrastructure to bring it at least up to speed with the rest of the industrial world (although to be great suggests we would have to surpass them, perhaps with a smart power grid and smart roads), reduce our infant mortality rate, raise our educational rankings internationally, restore funding for research and science, reduce healthcare costs while increasing availability, reduce poverty and homelessness rates, decrease unemployment, eliminate wage stagnation, reduce income inequality, avoid military adventurism, soften America’s tone on the International stage, and, for good measure, return to science and reason again as a basis for public policy and start taking serious steps to address the climate change crisis.

Do any of these things sound like remote possibilities in a Trump administration?

 

The bottom line is, Trump isn’t making legitimate campaign promises, he’s pandering to a core of people who want to hear these things but have no clue what what it would entail to accomplish them. I’m not even convinced he believes his own claims. His comments, his bombast, his manner, it isn’t presidential. It’s a populist appeal to the basest core of nativist voters. The danger is that he’s stirring up an angry mob, and history teaches us that angry mobs tend to run amok. I fear that the law of unintended consequences may lead to tragic results if he continues on this path. He is stirring up a beast he will have no control over.

There is a lot of time between now and November 2016, and the public is fickle. He is a novelty now, but it remains to be seen if he can actually win primaries. What is certain is, if he does manage to win the election, his supporters–who are lauding him for promising to deliver what conservative politicians have denied them for years–will be even angrier than they are now, once they realize he never had any desire or capability (still trying to figure out if he’s lying or naive) to deliver on any of them.

I’m Back

After a long hiatus, I am back at a point where I can resume producing new content. I took a break for a number of reasons, including an increase demand on my personal and professional responsibilities and time, and since then it’s just been difficult to restart it again. However, a new political cycle and a newer, even more motley array of candidates than the past two presidential cycles make it irresistible to avoid. Expect to see new content on a regular basis, starting within the next couple of days.

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