Reacting to his corporate colleague Phil Mattingly’s Wow! profile of Dr. Ben Carson, Bloomberg View‘s Francis Wilkinson is decidedly less jazzed by this year’s right-wing “outsider.” Indeed, he thinks the guy is performing a very familiar role or roles:
What exactly does the right find so appealing about Carson?
The familiar tropes are evident, including reluctant patriotism (running for high political office is “about the last thing I ever wanted to do,” Carson told Mattingly) and a double-barreled shot of crazy (“People hate each other and I am not 100% sure that it’s not planned,” he explained).
“One Nation” is the title of Carson’s autobiography. In case that’s too subtle a signal of political ambition, the subhead forges ahead: “What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future.”
No doubt, some Americans can best save the future by running for president. Carson casts himself not only as a brave truth teller but as a wise man above the partisan fray. “I refuse to engage in the grade-school-yard tactics of name-calling and mean-spirited comments when we have so many important issues to solve,” he wrote.
Of course, it can be tough to maintain such high-minded equanimity in the face of “secular progressives” who have no regard for fundamental principles such as freedom of speech and “distort words and meanings, and then cling to the created lies in an attempt to destroy enemies.” (Not that anybody is calling anybody names.)
Should Carson run for president, his candidacy promises to be a (traditional) marriage of Michele Bachmann’s personal loopiness and Herman Cain’s professional ignorance of public policy. In his book, Carson called the Affordable Care Act “the biggest governmental program in the history of the United States.” (So much for Social Security, Medicare, the Pentagon.) And if he can’t be bothered to learn much about government, he has an all-purpose rationale: “I would choose common sense over knowledge in almost every circumstance,” he wrote. It’s just too much to ask for both.
That’s all very perceptive. But Wilkinson misses one peculiar aspect of Carson’s appeal: his constant denunciations of “political correctness” as the chief evil in American public life today.
In a column for the Washington Times after he got some rather natural heat for calling Obamacare “the worst thing to happen to America since slavery,” Carson offered a vague and circular defense about the law representing “a profound shift of power from the people to the government.” He then spent the rest of the column bitching about, well–it’s not too clear what he’s bitching about unless it’s just people making fun of his empty conspiracy theories.
[T]hose who want to fundamentally change America would much rather demonize someone who is exposing this agenda than engage in a conversation that they cannot win. Others join in the fray happily marching in lockstep with those who are attempting to convert our nation to something we won’t recognize, having no idea that they are being used.
Being made fun of (which is what Carson calls “demonizing”) is at the heart of his idea of “political correctness,” and it infuriates him:
It is time in America for the people to open their eyes to what is happening all around them as our nation undergoes radical changes without so much as a conversation out of fear of being called a name, of facing economically adverse actions or of enduring government harassment, characterized by the perpetrators as “phony scandals.”
In other words, if you don’t accept the plausibility of Benghazi! and the IRS Conspiracy and (I don’t know what all he has in mind) maybe Agenda 21, then you are suppressing the free speech rights of those who believe all this stuff.
Political correctness is antithetical to our founding principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Its most powerful tool is intimidation.
If it is not vigorously opposed, its proponents win by default, because the victims adopt a “go along to get along” attitude. Major allies in the imposition of PC are members of the media, some of whom thrive on controversy and others who are true ideologues.
The true believers would be amusing if it were not so sad to behold them dissecting, distorting and repeating words in an attempt to divert attention from the rise of government control.
None of this makes a lick of sense to the non-wingnut mind. But to the kind of people who are hailing Ben Carson as a potential president, hearing an African-American man tell them it’s their duty to defy “political correctness” is, whatever Carson intends by the term, an invitation to spout all kinds of racist and sexist nonsense. If anyone so much as frowns at them, well, they are agents of tyranny and not really Americans. And anyone who finds the premises of their world view not worth taking seriously is trying to “intimidate” them into silence–the silence of the grave!
Ben Carson’s the closest thing we’ll ever see to the perfect Glenn Beck candidate for president. And so of course he will have a constituency.