Decoding Ben Carson

Now that Ben Carson is all the rage in the GOP presidential nominating contest, sharing the spotlight with Donald Trump without a trace of the negative vibes The Donald brings to the table, I figure my little hobby of trying to understand what the man means with his incessant references to “political correctness” is becoming a public utility. So I wrote it all up a bit more comprehensively in a column for TPMCafe.

One of my exhibits for describing Carson as a “wingnut with a calm bedside manner” was his reference in the Fox News GOP presidential debate to Hillary Clinton as a denizen of the “progressive movement” who was following “the Alinsky Model” for destroying the country. Even as they declared him the winner or one of the winners of the debate, MSM observers slid right over the ravings about Alinsky as though they couldn’t hear The Crazy or, more likely, didn’t understand what he was talking about. That sure as hell was not the case with right-wing media, who heard the dog-whistle loud and clear. Indeed, at National Review, John Fund even called it that:

The award so far in this Republican debate for dog-whistle rhetoric goes to Ben Carson. He answered a a question about Hillary Clinton by referring to her belief in “the Alinsky model,” a topic of great interest in the conservative blogosphere.

Named after Saul Alinksy, the late community organizer who inspired both Hillary and Barack Obama, the model calls for destabilizing the existing system from the inside and paving the way for radical social change.

Despite his mild manner and soft voice, it may be that Ben Carson is the candidate on tonight’s stage who is privately the most deeply ideological.

According to people like Carson, a big part of the Alinsky Model is “political correctness:” disarming opponents by deriding their utterances as small-minded and offensive. I didn’t see this until after I had sent in the TPMCafe column, but here’s a fine description of the core idea in a Tea Party take on Carson’s well-received 2014 CPAC speech:

Dr. Carson says that the good news is that the majority of people in this country have common sense, but the problem is that they’ve been “beaten into submission by the PC (political-correctness) policemen,” which has kept people from speaking up about what they believe.

To thunderous applause, Dr. Carson revealed one of Saul Alinsky’s (author of leftist bible, Rules for Radicals) more deceptive tactics that he taught to his progressive, Marxist followers:

“One of the principles of Saul Alinsky, he said you make the majority believe that what they think is outdated and nobody thinks that way, and that the way they think is the only way intelligent people think. And if you can co-opt the media in the process, you’re far ahead of the game. That’s exactly what’s happened, and it’s time for people to stand up and proclaim what they believe and stop being bullied!

So every time Carson denounces “political correctness,” which he does in just about every other sentence, that’s what he’s talking about: a conspiracy by “progressives” to suppress common-sense (i.e., hard-core conservative) “solutions” by pitting people against each other through talk about race, gender, income inequality, etc. etc. In Carson’s heavily Glenn-Beckish worldview, all his talk about “unity” and “civility” means the kind of country we can have once the snakes (i.e., you and me and HRC) have been thrown out of Eden.

It’s going to be interesting to me to see how much longer MSM types can continue to write about Carson as this nice unifying figure without hearing what the man is saying.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.