There is something heart-warming about Ben Carson’s candidacy for the presidency. That’s true whether you are a loyal supporter or just another of the onlookers trying to make up your mind in the near jungle of Republican candidates.
And, again, it is no mystery. Carson represents the best in American life. There may be skeletons in his closet as there are in those of all of us. But nothing vitiates the truly remarkable career of the man, nor for that matter his public statements even when they are considered by many questionable. It is no surprise that when asked which candidate would unite the country as president, six of the 12 focus group participants named Carson. Nor is it a surprise that his favorability ratings are consistently the highest of all the Republican candidates. He also wins on honesty and temperament. They are a reflection of what the voters see in his low-intensity discussion of the issues and his approach to life, generally, as a sincere believer who does not thrust that down your throat.
He is the American dream: a poor child of a long-oppressed minority who with the help of a loving and dedicated parent made it into a long, ultra-sucessful and erudite career, and earned a great deal of money in the process. He learned to practice one of the most demanding aspects of medicine and surgery. And he appears to genuinely believe that after fulfilling that career, he had an obligation to take on a political life for a country he loves, respects and believes needs a new kind of leadership in a crisis of confidence. That is exactly what The Founders intended in another age when they hoped participation in government would be a part-time concern of its citizens, limiting government to only a few non-interventionist activities that only it could perform.
Nor are we among those who are concerned about his several contentious statements. He has compared Obamacare to slavery, and he has a point in that the Affordable Care Act does force on all American citizens a conformity in their most crucial activity they have repeatedly refused to sanction. He has questioned whether a Muslim should become president of the U.S., not an idle speculation if the role of Islam as a political institution demanding complete obedience is reckoned with. He has suggested the possibility had Jews in Germany been able to acquire arms along with other German citizens, they might have not ended in the death camps. It is one of those “ifs” of history which have no answer but worthy of the thought. In fact, and we believe not out of pure prejudice, all these responses won him majority approval among potential voters. As Carson said when he announced his candidacy, “I’m probably never going to be politically correct because I’m not a politician.”
We are not very excited about Carson’s climbing to the top of the polls except as it vindicates a reflection among the voters of appreciation for the American characteristics we believe he demonstrates. At this stage of an even more complex election campaign than any in our lifetime, speculation on the ultimate outcome of the race for the Republican candidacy – or for that matter, still the Democratic one – and the ultimate victor is just that, speculation. Months and many speeches lie ahead. The winner in the early poll in Iowa, where Carson has just pulled ahead of the herd, has never been that much of an indicator of who finally got the nomination.
But what Carson has introduced into the campaign is a tone of rationality, of modesty, of conviviality that conforms an understatement which suggests old fashioned American standards of virtue. That’s why we are glad he is in the campaign, that he continues to best his competitors by being as frank and seeming guilessness, whatever the final outcome of the contest.