Dr. Ben Carson, the soft-spoken demagogue of the Christian Right

Ben Carson Makes Announcement About Seeking Republican Presidential NominationLast week the highly regarded Selzer Des Moines Register poll (in conjunction with Bloomberg News) in Iowa released a poll showing Dr. Ben Carson jumping out to a lead over Donald Trump 28% to 19%.

But the top line of the poll was not the real story. Selzer asked some very revealing questions of likely GOP voters in Iowa that revealed some very disturbing responses. As a Minnesotan raised on the joke that I.O.W.A. is an acronym for “idiots out wandering around,” this poll proved it; only the joke isn’t funny anymore.

Bloomberg News reported Carson Surges Past Trump in Latest Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Poll:

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has moved into a dominant position in Iowa, surpassing former front-runner Donald Trump as evangelical Christians begin to coalesce around him in the state that will cast the first 2016 nomination ballots.

Those planning to caucus for Carson are drawn to his personal story and his status as a non-career politician, the poll shows, and they view him as someone who approaches issues with common sense and with guidance from his faith in God.

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Evangelical Christians, who represent 42 percent of likely Republican caucus participants in the poll, appear to be aligning behind Carson. He received support from a third of that group, up from 21 percent in August, when he only narrowly led Trump with that key segment.

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Carson quietly continues to build a network of Iowa supporters. He easily has the highest favorability rating among Republican candidates, with 84 percent of likely GOP caucus-goers seeing him positively, up from 79 percent in August.

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The poll suggests Carson has more room to grow in Iowa, partly because his controversial statements generally aren’t turning off even other candidates’ supporters. Among that group, 56 percent find “very attractive” his statements that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is the worst thing since slavery, while 41 percent feel that way about his opposition to a Muslim president. Nearly half find “very attractive” his statement that Adolf Hitler’s mass murder of Jews might not have been as successful if more people had been armed.

Since the DMR/Bloomberg poll last week, Dr. Carson has doubled-down on the cray-cray statements that the Religious Right GOP in Iowa is not the least bit bothered by and share his beliefs. Think Progress today has a list of 13 Ridiculous Things Ben Carson Actually Believes:

Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson has become an unlikely frontrunner in the GOP presidential primary, leading recent polls in Iowa and surpassing all of the other Republican candidates’ recent fundraising totals.

Though he has never held political office, his short time in the spotlight has given him plenty of opportunity to make controversial and often factually incorrect statements. In May, ThinkProgress highlighted seven ridiculous things that Ben Carson believes. But in the past six months, Carson has come up with even more incendiary remarks and comparisons, which seem to only help his campaign.

Here are 13 arguments that Carson has made during his political career:

Women who get abortions are like slaveholders

On NBC’s Meet the Press in October, Carson compared women who terminate their unwanted pregnancies to slaveowners who “thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave.”

He went on to call for an outlaw of abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. “I would not be in favor of killing a baby because the baby came about in that way,” he said.

Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery

Carson’s abortion comments were just the latest in a series of arguments he has made comparing things to slavery. Back in 2013, when Carson was still gaining recognition in the Republican Party, he said in a speech that “Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”

“And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care,” he added. “It was about control.”

‘Hitler’ could happen in the U.S. today

Similarly, Carson has made a series of comments invoking Nazi Germany since launching his campaign. In September, he said at a campaign event that a Nazi-like force could come to power in the United States.

“If you go back and look at the history of the world, tyranny and despotism and how it starts, it has a lot to do with control of thought and control of speech,” he said, although he refused to outright say he was referring to President Obama.

Jews could have prevented the Holocaust if they had guns

In an interview with CNN in October, Carson blamed the Holocaust on the fact that Nazis took guns away from the Jewish people. “I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed,” Carson said. “There’s a reason these dictatorial people take the guns first.”

When pressed about why he repeatedly uses Nazi metaphors, Carson blamed the media for stirring controversy, saying that he’s heard “from many people in the Jewish community, including rabbis, who said, ‘You’re spot on. You are exactly right.’”

College campuses should be monitored for liberal political speech

On Glenn Beck’s radio program in October, Carson advocated for the censorship of “extreme political bias” on college campuses, saying the Department of Education should “monitor our institutions of higher education for extreme political bias and deny federal funding if it exists.”

The next day, he clarified during a different conservative radio program that his plan wouldn’t hurt conservatives. When host Dana Loesch asked if “the pendulum would swing the other way and we would see sort of like monitoring of political speech for conservatives,” Carson assured her that it would not. “I think we would have to put in very strict guidelines for the way that that was done,” he said.

Muslims should be disqualified from the presidency

During an interview on Meet the Press in September, Carson now infamously said that a Muslim could not become the president of the United States. “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” he said. “I absolutely would not agree with that.”

Instead of apologizing, Carson went on to explain his remarks. In order for a Muslim to become president, he said, “you have to reject the tenets of Islam.”

There’s a war on ‘what’s inside of women’

During a campaign stop this summer, Carson denied the argument used to describe the Republican Party’s policies that restrict women’s rights.

“There is no war on women,” he said. “There may be a war on what’s inside of women, but there is no war on women in this country.”

Being gay is a choice because prison turns people gay

Carson said in a CNN interview in March that homosexuality is a choice, citing people who “go into prison straight – and when they come out, they’re gay” as proof. He later attempted to apologize for the remarks in which he addressed those who were offended, but reinforced his belief that sexual orientation is chosen.

Carson has also called marriage equality a “Marxist plot,” described marriage equality supporters as “enemies of America,” and compared homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, another statement that led him to similarly “apologize” for his “poorly chosen words.”

There’s no such thing as a war crime

Carson also said earlier this year that the U.S. should not hesitate to send troops to defeat the Islamic State and should not fear prosecution for any of its actions abroad. In the Fox News interview, he suggested that the military should not be subject to any war crimes law.

“If you’re gonna have rules for war, you should just have a rule that says no war,” he said. “Other than that, we have to win.”

Obama is depressing the economy to keep people on welfare

After appearing on The View last year and saying that Americans have become dependent on welfare, Carson elaborated on Fox News. “Do you think that people who are on welfare want to be on welfare?” Fox’s Megyn Kelly asked him.

“I think some people have that as a way of life,” Carson responded, later adding that “perhaps some of the things that are going on right now which could be easily remedied are not being remedied in order to keep the economy depressed because there would be no appetite for many of the social programs if people were doing well.”

Obama signed immigration reform to bring in government-dependent voters

After speaking out about welfare, Carson said in an interview months later that Obama’s executive action on immigration was part of a “nefarious agenda” to bring new voters into the United States who will be dependent on government.

“Is he just trying to instead of get out the vote, bring in the vote?” former Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth asked Carson. “Is this all designed to have new voters — despite the fact he claims they’re not going to get citizenship — is the long-term goal to bring in a new class of voters dependent on government?”

“Of course it is,” Carson replied.

Congress should be able to remove judges for voting for marriage equality

In an interview with a conservative radio host earlier this year, Carson said it was “unconstitutional” that judges have ruled in favor of equality despite statewide ballot initiatives that resulted in different outcomes. Carson said that when federal judges make rulings like this, “our Congress actually has the right to reprimand or remove them.”

Anarchy could cancel the 2016 election

Carson warned in an interview in 2014 that if we “continue down this pathway that we are going down,” referring to “this pathway where everything is framed in a political sense and our representatives are not working for the people, they’re working for their party,” then the anarchy could lead to the 2016 election being called off. He claimed that the growing national debt, ISIS and the then-Democratic controlled U.S. Senate’s refusal to consider legislation passed by the Republican House of Representatives all pointed toward the idea that the country is headed toward anarchy.

If Carson’s prediction proved to be true, he said, Obama could declare martial law and the 2016 election would not occur.

The Hill today asks, Can Carson win GOP nomination?:

The possibility of Ben Carson becoming the Republican presidential nominee is being raised with increasing urgency after he knocked Donald Trump out of first place in two Iowa polls late last week.

But there are plenty of skeptics within Republican ranks, many of whom give voice to the same concerns: Carson has not yet faced real scrutiny; the depth of his policy positions is untested; he is gaffe-prone; and he could struggle to build the organization that is necessary to turn poll leads into primary victories.

At the same time, more sympathetic observers see him has someone who can offer Trump’s ‘outsider’ cachet wrapped in a more affable style. They also note that he is a long-standing favorite of evangelicals and that he can offer a compelling personal story.

“He is very well-liked, but he hasn’t been scrutinized like the rest of the field,” said Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa. “Maybe being at the top in Iowa brings that, and we’ll see where he stands after that.”

The two new surveys last week from Iowa showed Carson leading Trump by high single digits. Trump had led the field since early August in the state that kicks off the nominating process.

[Note: Trump has moved back into a tie with Carson in the latest CBS News poll in Iowa on Sunday. Trump and Carson tied in Iowa, poll shows.  Trump and Carson are at 27 percent in the CBS News 2016 “Battleground Tracker,” followed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who’s in third place with 12 percent. However, two new polls out of Iowa (from Monmouth and Loras) show Ben Carson surging to over 30%.]

Veteran GOP strategist Ed Rollins said, “What he can’t do is make any mistakes. He has a tendency to think out loud.”

Robinson asserted that “when you look at the first two debates, Trump gets criticized because he is not detailed enough, but Carson is even lighter on substance. He has succeeded in these debates really because he has avoided a lot of stuff, and he has scored points on the lighter questions.”

Even so, the affable, low-key aspects of Carson’s personality have resonated with many Republican voters.

“People underestimate the profile he has with the evangelical community,” Mackowiak said. “It has grown in the past year, but it has been there for a long time. He has been well-known among evangelicals for 10 years,” Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak said.

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Still, many insiders assert that Carson is about to feel the glare of the spotlight as never before.

How he will fare is anyone’s guess, especially given his propensity for inflammatory comments. On Sunday, during an appearance on NBC News’s “Meet the Press,” he drew an analogy between abortion and slavery. On the same show last month, he said he “absolutely would not agree” with the United States electing a Muslim president.

Earlier this month, Carson raised eyebrows when he gave a meandering answer to a question about the debt limit during a radio interview. 

Still, those apparent missteps have done nothing to slow Carson’s rise in polls of Republican voters.

Questions about money and organization also loom large, however. Carson has no problem raising money, given that he outperformed the rest of the Republican field in the third quarter, hauling in $20.8 million.

But he has also spent a prodigious rate. Through the end of the third quarter, his campaign had spent $20.1 million of the $31.4 million it had raised since its inception, according to a New York Times analysis. Bush’s campaign, by contrast, had spent $14.5 million.

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The conventional wisdom is that Carson’s stay at the top of the polls may not endure. But he has defied expectations many times before.

“I would not bet on him today,” said Rollins, “but he has got a lot further than anybody thought he would go.

It’s about time the media give Dr. Carson more scrutiny instead of treating him as a carnival sideshow who has no chance of winning. Dr. Carson is revealing some very disturbing facts about the GOP electorate, just as Donald Trump has.

UPDATE: Check out Ed Kilgore’s post at the Political Animal blog today, Ben Carson and the Eschaton:

Since the conservative and mainstream media have all largely failed to penetrate Carson’s irenic demeanor and “common sense” rap to take a look at the writhing snakes of unreason that seem to inhabit his mind, I have a hard time imagining them conducting any sort of theological examination of the man. And maybe they shouldn’t. But all in all, this is a dude who believes a lot of things that should produce disapproval numbers a whole lot higher than single digits.

2 responses to “Dr. Ben Carson, the soft-spoken demagogue of the Christian Right

  1. captain*arizona

    the republican party loves its uncle toms and bens. but it is a ponzu sceem as only a few uncle toms are needed.

  2. The Iowa Cacus means very little-What do Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan have in common?
    These former presidents all lost in the Iowa caucuses, but won their party’s nomination and, of course, the subsequent general elections.
    What about Rick Santorum,Mike Huckabee, Dick Gephardt and Tom Harkin? They came in first in Iowa but failed to become their party’s standard-bearer.Since then, however, only three non-incumbent candidates who won Iowa have gone on to win the presidency.
    Six Republican winners in Iowa, out of nine contests there, have gone on to win the GOP nomination. (Three were incumbents who ran unopposed.)
    So a win in Iowa can give a candidate momentum, but by no means guarantees the party’s nomination.