Is Carson the Political Outsider to Change Politics? (Probably Not)
Ben Carson, best known for his fame as a neurosurgeon and his medical career with Johns Hopkins, is running for president. While he may have been hesitant to commit to a political party in the past, he’s clearly cemented himself as a Republican candidate for the 2016 election. Diverging from other presidential candidates, he made his candidacy known in his home town of Detroit: “I’m Ben Carson, and I’m a candidate for president of the United States.”
He kicked off the announcement with Detroit nostalgia, some GOP talking points about welfare and the deficit, and a somewhat off-color joke about spousal abuse, in the context of “most of the time I beat her [at pool], but I should be careful because there some media in here and their headline will be ‘Carson admits he beats his wife.’ ” Nothing funnier than a joke criticizing the media at the expense of sensitivity. But Carson doesn’t aspire to be politically correct, as he made clear in his talk. “I’m probably never going to be politically correct because I’m not a politician,” said Carson. “I don’t want to be a politician. Because politicians do what is politically expedient — I want to do what’s right.”
Carson is hardly the first to take advantage of his distance from Washington’s entrenched political candidates. Being seen as a Washington outsider is a strength these days, given the political strife and frustration rampant in the Capitol. However there is a difference between being an outsider and being a complete stranger to politics. How can a candidate who has little to no political experience expect to be prepared to lead the nation’s government and make decisions of a political nature? His answer to this is twofold. Firstly, God.
Religion has been his justification for some questionable comments in the past, an example of some of that political incorrectness he referenced. He spoke against same-sex marriage, grouping homosexuality with bestiality and pedophilia — something he later apologized for. Of course, Carson isn’t the first politician to make religion a significant part of his message. Mike Huckabee comes to mind as a major religious mover and shaker, with a large portion of his constituents made up of evangelical voters. However, Huckabee was also the governor of Arkansas, and has been in politics for years.
Carson’s other argument in defense of his lack of time on the political playing field is that he would delegate, and that a general knowledge of how to utilize information well would serve him in that role. “There is no question that I haven’t spent a lot of time in government. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make sure that you have people around you who have spent that time. I think the thing that is actually more important is wisdom and understanding and knowing how to use facts,” said Carson, per The Christian Post.
The fact of the matter is that delegation is an important part of being president, as is relying on strong advisers and working with others in a team. But having honed and well-practiced political instincts is also important. And no matter what anyone says, teamwork isn’t the same wherever you practice it, and information comes in all forms. Being intelligent is important, as is knowing how to understand information, but that doesn’t mean reading a situation and predicting an outcome, or working alongside other politicians, will be something Carson is prepared to do.
Carson’s announcement began with a outline of his early days growing up in the city and his family’s impoverished background. He spoke about his mom — who is currently in ill health and has put a brief pause on his trip to Iowa — who worked hard as a single mother, taking on two or three jobs to support her songs. The story, while touching, segued into a critique of the socialist welfare system, emphasis on small government, and encouraging “people to rise up and take the government back.”
Perhaps most surprising was Carson’s commentary on the importance of freedom of the press, and how he feels it has gone astray. He spoke of the founding fathers and how they imagined the press as being a power on the side of citizens, hence the need to protect it with the law. He made a direct plea to the media present at his speech, saying, “You guys have an almost sacred position in a true democracy, please don’t abuse it.”
Media has its fair share of problems in today’s age. There is no end to the commentary that could be made here regarding how the press has aged and is being shaped in our modern era, but one thing is fairly clear: Objective coverage is still important. And it’s still available. Where it’s not available, we need to be direct and hold nothing back in pointing this out and correcting it.
The fact of the matter is that there will also always be commentary that is partisan, and that’s part of keeping politicians in check — politicians on both sides. Just because The New York Times publishes an op-ed about a politician doesn’t mean there isn’t a straight-shooting account from the Associated Press on what events transpired in neutral language. Sometimes a right-leaning reporter takes a liberal candidate to task for poor judgement, and sometimes a liberal journalist writes a scathing critique of another politician.
This is part of the freedom of speech offered by media — just as it is easy to get an objective report of Carson’s announcement by simply watching it here or reading the transcript. But part of having free press is accepting that it’s important for writers to have the ability to critique politicians, like, say, for example, Carson himself.