CNN/ORC poll

The Ben Carson Show (Passing)

“I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary, and it has become what is scientifically, politically correct.” (Dr. Ben Carson, 2012)

The Ben Carson phenomenon might well be passing; having emerged as a social conservative frontrunner, displacing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker out of the race, as well as the perennial Pennsylvania tantrum otherwise known as Rick Santorum, and comic relief upstart Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, both of whom should consider following the Cowardly Badger off the field.

It was only two weeks ago that Rich Lowry toddled over from his corner at National Review to explain for Politico why Dr. Carson is “the superior outsider”.

Carson’s rise suggests that it’s possible to catch the populist wave roiling Republican politics and yet not be an obnoxious braggart who abuses anyone who crosses him and will say or do anything as long as he’s getting attention. Ben Carson is a superior outsider to Donald Trump.

He is more gentlemanly and more conservative, with a more compelling life story. Carson is a man of faith who, despite his manifest accomplishments, has a quiet dignity and winsome modesty about him. Ben Carson is a throwback, whereas Donald Trump is a bold-faced name straight out of our swinish celebrity culture.

Then again, this is the same Rich Lowry who wrote the now-obscure rave review of Sarah Palin’s 2008 vice presidential debate performance, and we needn’t wonder why the National Review editor would rather that one be hard to find. And there is, of course, a reason we note Mr. Lowry’s poor judgment.

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Almost Exactly on Cue

In March, Ben Carson spoke at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference. (Credit Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

There are any number of undignified things we might suggest about the GOP and Ben Carson, as Republicans have played happy at his presence in the discourse. Perhaps the least nasty way of saying it is that Republicans never had any intention of following him to the White House, but, rather, just needed a body that met certain superficial criteria to send out to the line. Or perhaps we could simply say that a brief paragraph in Trip Gabriel’s article for the New York Times stands out both as extraordinary and hardly a surprise:

Though few Republican strategists expect Mr. Carson, 63, to be the nominee, they acknowledge his potential to throw a wrench into the establishment’s desire to unify early, and the danger of turning off moderates if his divisive views continue to gain traction.

The party has sent him out to bait and court extremists, and recently he placed second in a CNN/ORC poll considering 2016 presidential candidates; Carson placed second, with the poll winner being a non-candidate named Mitt Romney.

We ought not wonder that the prospect of Ben Carson rising to legitimate presidential aspiration and possibility unsettles Republican Party institutions. It is one thing for conservatives to send a black man out to race-bait the White House, but another entirely to actually put him up for the presidency.

Furthermore, it is almost as if NYT is happy to play along: “G.O.P. Hopes for Unity”, reads the headline, “May Be Upset by Ben Carson”.

As a thesis, everything about the statement is wrong.

It’s almost funny. But consider that at this time last year the presumed front-runners for 2016 had all flamed out in one way or another. Marco Rubio was drowning in his own clownish incompetence, Chris Christe was busy trying to tread water amid the tumbling wreckage of the Bridge Scandal, and Rand Paul revealed to Americans that he doesn’t know what plagiarism is. And again, through the electoral season, Republicans tore themselves up with vicious primary fights, including a debacle in Middle America that racked up a death toll. And the Speaker of the House can’t pass his own bills because he can’t whip his own caucus into line.

Seriously, then: Ben Carson is the thorn in the side of GOP unity?

Really?

There is a way in which that makes sense, but such discussions are not intended for polite society.

Neither should one be surprised that the Republican discourse prefers such a setting.

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Gabriel, Trip. “G.O.P. Hopes for Unity May Be Upset by Ben Carson”. The New York Times. 21 December 2014.

CNN/ORC. “Interviews
with 1,045 adult Americans conducted by telephone by ORC International on November 21-23, 2014”. 2 December 2014.