Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ben Carson: Gump Republican

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Dr. Ben Carson is not a stupid man.

 He’s a world-class pediatric brain surgeon. He’s a graduate of Yale University, the University of Michigan Medical School, and the residency program of Johns Hopkins Medical School. He’s been elected into the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine. The list of his honors goes on and on.
No, Dr. Ben Carson is not a stupid man. So why is he talking like one?
For instance, although he’s obviously had rigorous scientific training at some of this country’s finest institutions of higher learning, Carson continues to publicly embrace what’s called “young Earth creationism,” a theory which asserts that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, despite the fossil records and the fact that there are observable objects in the universe (such as long-period comets), all of which are clearly much older. He’s described the Big Bang Theory as “part of a fairy tale.”
I’m reasonably sure the good doctor is talking about the generally accepted explanation of the origin of our observable universe, not the TV show. The TV show, which tells the story of brilliant but socially awkward nerds who end up having smoking-hot women fall in love with them, is definitely a fairy tale. But I digress.
Dr. Carson has also described the Affordable Care Act as the “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”
Now, we know that Dr. Carson is far too intelligent a man to really believe that a law that keeps insurance companies from denying you coverage based on pre-existing conditions is exactly like being forced to pick cotton from sunup to sundown under the threat of brutal flogging if you don’t do enough, having your wives and daughters subject to constant rape, and living under the pervasive fear of having your family broken up and sold to someone hundreds of miles away. Only a stupid person would believe those things are even remotely comparable, and we know Dr. Carson’s not stupid.
Just lately, Dr. Carson told NBC’s Chuck Todd he didn’t think a Muslim should ever be president. “I absolutely would not agree with that,” he said. Later, he told the online magazine The Hill that a president should be “sworn in on a stack of Bibles, not a Quran.”
Now, I’m sure that Dr. Carson, a highly intelligent man who claims to revere the U.S. Constitution, is aware of Article VI of that precious document, which states explicitly that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” I mean, he has to have read the Constitution, right? And understood it?
So why is Ben Carson saying all of these silly things? Well, he’s not simple-minded, but the rise of Donald Trump shows us that a substantial number of the GOP primary voters apparently are. They’re what I call the “Forrest Gump” Republicans. Remember that movie? It was another in a long line of stories that have fed and bolstered the uniquely American mythology of the na├»ve half-wit who’s yet somehow more “wise” than the clever but wicked people all around them. (You can probably tell I’m not a fan of the movie.)
Rick Santorum, who you may be surprised to know is also running for president this year, served up that trope with an extra side order of resentment back in 2012 when he told the Values Summit, “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.”
At one point, it seemed that the GOP was trying to shed that image. It was Bobby Jindal — who, you also may or may not remember, is himself a presidential candidate — who said that the GOP needed to stop being “the stupid party.” We all see where that attitude’s gotten him. He’s polling slightly lower than toenail fungus. So the upper tier of Republican candidates has apparently given up and decided to go full-out Gump.Ben Carson is not stupid. But he needs stupid people to vote for him. And that’s why he says the things he does.