The Once Exalted Crank Ben Carson

Ben CarsonI’ve been hearing a lot of people talking about the possibility that Ben Carson might run for president. Why not? I’m sure he will have another book out that he wants to sell. Perhaps, “One Nation: We Can Save America’s Future by Killing the Poor.” But a presidential run by him would be very typical of the Republican Party, in that they think one doesn’t need to know anything about governing in order to govern. And Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bush the Younger proved that in a technical sense, you don’t need to know anything, even if it is really bad for the state and country. Carson has no experience in government whatsoever. This, of course, in Republican circles makes him a great candidate. It is much the same as the way that the emotionally immature are most in love with people they know least about.

But thinking about this got me reading about Carson. He’s an interesting guy. He is clearly a brilliant neurosurgeon. But apart from that, he has long been a crank. And I mean that in a good way. He had many ideas that were all over the place. In a saner time, he just would have been one of those odd guys (Like me!) who publish their marginal ideas and mostly no one really notices. He could have been a modern Iganatius Donnelly. And that would be super cool!

To give you an example, in the 1990s, he was pushing for the elimination of for-profit health insurance, “The first thing we need to do is get rid of for profit insurance companies. We have a lack of policies and we need to make the government responsible for catastrophic healthcare.” So what he’s calling for is single payer healthcare above a certain level. Depending on that level, that could be a very liberal policy. But as I’ve seen, the definition of “catastrophic” has gone up and up and up over the years as far as conservatives are concerned. Of course, now he compares Obamacare to slavery.

Carson is also an evolution denier. I have no problem with this! It goes right along with his crankery. Of course the neurosurgeon believes this. He is the same man who said of his political party, “If I were part of one, it would be called the Logic party, and it would be dedicated to commonsense approaches we all should be able to see.” Ah yes, logic! He decided that evolution is wrong because the universe is just too complex to be explained. Just the same, evolution is such a big deal because it is a simple idea that explains that complexity. I’m sure it all comes down to the fact that he is a Seventh-day Adventist and they don’t believe in evolution. But, you know: logic!

The shame is that Carson has now become cause célèbre in the conservative movement. This has destroyed his ability to be the crank that he was clearly born to be. There’s just too much money to lose with even the smallest of apostasy. So even when he says that people have no right to semi-automatic weapons in a city, he moderates it with, “There’s a reason for the Second Amendment; people do have the right to have weapons.” Of course, who cares what people do in cities? They are just a bunch of liberals anyway. (What’s more, conservatives like Ben Carson are in cities, and they don’t want gun toting idiots running around any more than anyone else!)

But when it comes down to it, I can’t say that the Republicans won’t nominate Ben Carson. It’s interesting that everyone talked about what terrible candidates the Republicans ran in 2012. But was that really true? Mitt Romney was a perfectly acceptable candidate and he did as well in the general election as any Republican would have. There were also people like Jon Huntsman and Tim Pawlenty. But the Republicans didn’t like these more reasonable guys. If it hadn’t been for his sexual transgressions, Herman Cain might well have been the nominee. I think that Carson doesn’t have his baggage, and is a hell of a lot smarter. So why not?

I don’t think Carson would have much of a chance in a general election, even if the economics were clearly favorable a Republican. Most Republicans would be thrilled to vote for an African American. But there is still a sizable part of the party (I’d say 20%) who absolutely would not vote for a black man. Many of them would not vote at all, but many others would go with Clinton. But Carson has already lost his soul, just as Ronald Reagan did before him. Both men were cranks, and they traded that exalted state to be nothing but conservative ideologues — doing the bidding of their billionaire betters.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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