The Right regularly decries emotionalism, but is often guilty of it, too. Falling for the cult of personality is not just a phenomenon on the Left. It is seen among conservatives, and is, quite obviously, making an appearance this election cycle.
In this round, on the crowded stage of GOP candidates, the “good guy” is none other than Dr. Ben Carson. He has an incredibly nice, calm demeanor. Dealing with the antics of Donald Trump does not affect him. Why would it? A bloviating billionaire is nothing compared to the stresses of neurosurgery. Carson is as pleasant as they come. While this is an admirable trait in general, it does not make one presidential.
We’ve seen this before in the hopeless case that was the 2008 GOP presidential attempt. McCain chose Palin to counteract his old white man persona and add a dimension of minority to the GOP ticket. A young black man was running for president on the other side. Might as well add a woman to the Republican side in an effort to seem diverse, right? Palin is nice. and she is folksy. Sure, Palin is a “good person”. I’m also glad she is not Vice President.
In recent weeks, Ben Carson’s poll numbers have risen, and he is either ahead of Trump or a close second in many regions. Back in September, U.S. News & World Report remarked on the Dr.’s appeal:
…there’s a simple explanation for Carson’s growing appeal: He’s not only an outsider with no ties to the political system, he’s just plainly the most likeable candidate in the field. A decent and honorable man attempting to penetrate a system awash in nastiness and deceit.
“There is this niceness factor people want in their president…”
This may be true, but that is nowhere near the most important factor, and more voters needs to realize that.
“No one knows his stances on key issues, and without any record that challenge is even more difficult to overcome as we shift into substance in fall and winter,” says an operative supportive of a rival candidate, who requested anonymity to avoid public criticism of Carson.
Voters should not be so quick to assume that success in someone’s chosen field qualifies them for public office. I can admire and respect the abilities outside of the political arena, but that does not mean I believe those automatically translate to competence as commander-in-chief. As discussed recently in Leon Wolf’s piece, and earlier this year in goldwaterconservative’s piece, Carson displays an unserious and unprepared manner, the opposite of what a presidential candidate should be.
I am not swayed to support Carson because of his niceness in the same way I’m not swayed to support Trump because of his nerve. Frankly, those candidates with substantive, detailed policy positions have been floundering below those whose extreme personalities are the sole focus. This is unfortunate.
On Wednesday, Carson was interviewed by the Miami Herald, and was asked about “the so-called wet-foot, dry-foot policy, which allows Cubans who reach U.S. soil to remain here, and about the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows Cubans who arrive in the U.S. to apply for legal residency after 366 days”. Carson responded:
“You’re going to have to explain to me exactly what you mean by that,” Carson said, asked about wet-foot, dry-foot. “I have to admit that I don’t know a great deal about that, and I don’t really like to comment until I’ve had a chance to study the issue from both sides.”
On the Cuban Adjustment Act, he gave a similar response: “Again, I’ve not been briefed fully on what that is.”
When a reporter explained the outlines of the policy, Carson said, “It sounds perfectly reasonable.”
Meanwhile, other candidates, [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] and [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ], have solid opinions on the topic. Yes, I think every candidate should surround themselves with good advisors. But should we give as a reward the position of leader of the country to someone who is seemingly on auto-pilot throughout the campaign?