For a few years now, I have been dodging Ben Carson supporters at political conservative events. I’m talking about long before this primary season started—it seems that wherever I went there were perky young people encouraging me to join the, “Run, Ben, Run” movement.
I wasn’t very interested. Not only did I really not want to start focusing on the next Presidential election immediately after the debacle of 2012, but while I valued Dr. Carson’s personal story immensely (who doesn’t?) I didn’t see why competence in the medical field, overcoming a disadvantaged childhood and even a willingness to speak out courageously in front of President Obama, translated into presidential potential.
Clearly, I was wrong. As both Carly Fiorina and Dr. Carson have shown, lack of political experience can be viewed as a plus this time around. The courage to buck political correctness is a basic necessity and after two terms of a president who encourages victim mentality it would do our country good to be led by someone who values individual ability and potential.
At this point, the Republican candidates fall into a few categories in my mind. I might define them as those I could enthusiastically support, those who make me think less of the Republican Party even as I vote for them (but do not speak positively about them to my neighbors, put a bumper sticker on my car or do anything beyond that one action in the voting booth) and those for whom I won’t vote if they are on the ballot. My past record suggests that I represent a lot of people, much as a teacher knows that one student asking a question usually represents many more confused kids. My voting record is certainly as accurate as polling data. I was enthusiastic about Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush, I voted for a third-party candidate when the senior President Bush ran for his second term, left the presidential spot blank when John McCain ran and dispiritedly voted for Bob Dole and Mitt Romney, expecting them to lose and feeling more annoyance and anger at the Republican machine than any desire to see either of those men win. I must make clear that in all these cases, I wasn’t commenting on the decency of these men—a world with more people of Bob Dole’s caliber, for example, would be a better place—but on their ability to be successfully elected and/or govern.
Recognizing that the election is still in the distance, Dr. Carson and Ted Cruz are the only two candidates in my ‘enthusiastic even if concerned’ column while a Jeb Bush candidacy could lead me to give up membership in the Republican Party. I want to like Marco Rubio but I worry that he is an establishment candidate in the making. I need reassurance about his principles and also that his eagerness to be liked and seen as a consensus candidate won’t lead him to betray things in which I believe. More than any other candidate, I want to know whether his wife is a staunch conservative thinker on both economic and social issues or if she will fall prey to the liberal social milieu in Washington and move him leftward so that she will fit in. Each time I begin considering Rubio in a positive light, he does something that pushes me away, most recently his talk of tax credits for family leave. Right now, I expect to be disappointed by him. I’d be delighted if he changes my mind.
Donald Trump is the candidate about whom my feelings are most mixed. I would be embarrassed to have him represent my country and seeing him as the heir of George Washington makes me cringe. (I know that many of my readers are Trump or Rubio enthusiasts. I’d be disappointed if only people who agreed with me read what I wrote.) Yet, I’m not sure that Trump might not be an effective counter-measure to Hillary Clinton in a weird, almost ridiculous way. The American people overwhelmingly think that Hillary is deceptive, a liar and untrustworthy. Many of these people still plan to vote for her. Any new revelations about her tend to bounce off, because they simply confirm what people already know. Donald Trump has not betrayed the American people in the same way, but there is an assumption that he is a blowhard, prone to outrageous and sometimes contradictory statements with a less than exemplary life. Could he possibly be a good bet because of these things? No one expects him to be an upright statesman, conferring dignity on the proceedings. Yet, many people will vote for him anyway, some after great consideration, others because he’s a TV star and that’s the extent of their thought processes. Maybe he is the man who matches the moment as many think. Maybe he will be able to match the Clinton machine. Even so, I am hoping that whether or not to vote for him is a choice I will not have to make.
I think that Carly Fiorina shines on the debate stage. For whatever reason, she isn’t gaining traction. Consequently, she and some of the other candidates, many of whom I admire, don’t seem to be formidable opponents to the Democratic Party.
This brings me back to Dr. Carson and Ted Cruz. Ben Carson has not spent decades of his life immersed in political minutiae. He has spent years in the real world, one where emotion, fact, money, success, failure and spirit intersect. He represents millions of Americans who want to get on with their lives but see the America they love crumbling. Dr. Carson is a throwback to the citizen-statesman, those men who after the Revolutionary War wanted nothing more than to go back to their lives but sacrificed that wish because a country needed them. That’s rather a different picture from a professional politician who has planned, schemed and lived his or her entire life with the ultimate goal of becoming president.
I see Dr. Carson’s soft spoken manner as an asset rather than a liability. Parents and teachers often discover that screaming is less effective than whispering. The same child who tunes out your shrieks will lean in to hear what you have to say when you speak calmly and softly. Personally, I’m tired of being yelled at and of dialogue conducted in shouts and insults. I think many Americans will find Dr. Carson’s manner soothing especially compared to Hillary’s shrill and mean-spirited style.
I want to know who Dr. Carson sees as examples of the people with whom he wants to surround himself. It’s just fine with me if he does not know as much as someone who has jaunted around the world at taxpayer expense, as long as he assembles a team that shares his principles while being immersed in the necessary facts. I’d be fine if he answered a question about an area that he is not expert in by saying, “I am studying to learn more about this topic. As you know, I haven’t been in Washington for years where taxpayers paid me to do so. I was busy living life like my fellow Americans. I promise to work hard and learn whatever I need to know, including finding experts in whatever fields are necessary. What I bring is knowledge of how the real world works outside Washington and deep convictions about this country needing to regain her greatness. You asked a good question. Here is the principle behind my response but I commit to spending more time on the details. It would be inappropriate for me to answer it now before I have learned more.”
Would you accept an answer like that? And yes, while I would no more vote for Dr. Carson because he is Black than I would vote for Hillary because she is female, I think his race would be a factor in confusing and demoralizing staunch Democrat voters who have been trained to equate racism and the Republican Party.
I have appreciated Ted Cruz for years. What I want to see from him is the ability to turn people who think they know and dislike him, into supporters. He is undoubtedly principled and intelligent. Can he be charming and welcoming to those who think the Tea Party is made up of kooks but if given the chance to actually listen to concerns and ideas might start nodding in agreement? I appreciate his years of standing up for my values as a lonely voice, but at this point, I want less “red meat” and more sizzling steak wafting tempting aromas to those who think differently. I’d like to see how he expects principle to meet practical.
Months before any voting starts, this is my thought process. I’d love to hear yours.
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