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.