Republican presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson has been rising in the polls and raising hopes that for the first time in the party’s history, an African American might win the GOP nomination. But, before the confetti and party hats come out, let‘s take a moment to think about how this legendary neurosurgeon and role model for many got here.
From a political lens, Carson has done everything right. He started his campaign out with strategic ad buys, small intimate events, and grip and grins in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Politicos call it “playbook presidential campaigning.” It is a grade “A” way to introduce a meek and soft-spoken neurosurgeon to the American electorate. But, as textbook as it may sound, these moves laid the groundwork for the grand reveal from our once meek doctor: a campaign riding the waves of racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, and downright ignorance that lurk below the surface of our great nation.
The truth is, Carson’s meteoric rise in the polls is directly correlated with his willful peddling of falsehoods, his inclination to endorse and joke about state-sanctioned violence against communities of color, and most egregiously, his ignorance of the Constitution and its basic tenets.
In front of a room of mostly white New Hampshire primary voters last week, Carson took time out to joke about his childhood and the current divide between the black community and law enforcement by saying:
"Throwing rocks at cars, I really liked that. Sometimes, the police would come, always in unmarked cars. And, they'd be chasing us across the field, and they would think they trapped us. Now, that was back in the days before they would shoot you. I'm just kidding! You know they wouldn't do that.”
As he and the predominately white crowd laughed, Carson’s numbers continue to rise. He is just behind Donald Trump in Iowa and New Hampshire and tied the billionaire in Pennsylvania, TheHill.com reports.
Despite his popularity, the generalizations and jokes make it painfully obvious that Carson is out of touch with issues facing our communities. The murder of black lives are not a laughing matter and should be taken seriously by every candidate, especially one who in a recent USAToday op-ed indicated that as a black man he knows how to fix our problem with race.
Meanwhile, a recent Public Policy Poll of North Carolina conservatives found that 72 percent agreed that a Muslim should not be allowed to be President, and 40 percent think Islam should be outright illegal. In a poll of those same conservatives, Carson was wildly popular. Perhaps it is because he recently said, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”
That poll and Carson’s rhetoric give us great insights into why he is so successful right now. It is almost diabolically simple: Carson is tapping into the main vain of unspoken American Islamophobia and is reaping the rewards.
Carson has clearly worked very hard to become the GOP flavor of the month. He may even win the Iowa Caucus, the New Hampshire Primary, and even the South Carolina Primary, which would be historic for an African-American running for President in the Republican Party.
As one of the frontrunners in the Republican Primary, Carson had a chance to change the party and this country for better. He could have used his platform to talk about the impact of poverty, income inequality and racism in our country. He could have reminded America that religious freedom is a right guaranteed to all and that an individual of any religion can become President. But yet, he chose to appeal to the cowards in our nation, the misguided folks who do not trust Muslims and who would see him, just as they saw Trayvon, if he was in a hoodie, walking home from the 7-11 with a bag of Skittles.
Richard Fowler’s YouTube and radio show can be heard in more than 9.1 million homes. He frequently appears on Fox News, MSNBC, and C-SPAN. Follow him on Twitter @Richardafowler