Ben Carson Challenges Trump for the Anti-Immigrant and Anti-Muslim Vote

Last month, the pundits thought that Ben Carson was the anti-Trump because they saw him as nice, calm, dignified, and deliberative. The pundits have too short a memory. The Ben Carson they referred to as "nice" is the same one who called Obama a "psychopath" and who has described Obamacare as "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery." This month, after a slew of new, offensive comments, the pundits seem to be realizing that Carson is basically Donald Trump, just with the volume and energy-level turned down.

It should not be too surprising that Ben Carson would see stronger Republican support with his negative comments directed at minority groups. As I have pointed out in my book, America Is Not Post-Racial: Xenophobia, Islamophobia, Racism, and the 44th President, a significant portion of the Republican Party is motivated by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments. These racial and ethnic hatreds are most intense among a group that I call the "Obama Haters." The Obama Haters are the 25 million Americans who most passionately hate Barack Obama. More than 90 percent of Obama Haters are Republicans, and they are also among the most politically-engaged and politically-active members of the party.

Carson became famous on the right because of his criticism of President Obama's policies. These critiques alone would make him appealing to the Obama Haters. But Carson has also expressed anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim views that would also help him gain their support.

Not enough attention has been given to Carson's views on immigration. Although serious analysts see immigration to the United States as being strongly driven by a desire for work, Carson says that immigrants come to the United States to receive welfare benefits. He argues that to prevent people from migrating to the United States, we have to "get rid of all the various benefits that are pulling them in here" or, as he has phrased it recently, "turn off the spigot that dispenses the goodies" of government benefits.

As I document in America Is Not Post-Racial, Obama Haters also believe that welfare benefits are a major draw for unauthorized immigrants although unauthorized immigrants are, in fact, generally barred from receiving welfare benefits. One Obama Hater claims that unauthorized immigrants "get everything given to them." Another says that "illegal immigrants are getting financial aid from the government!" And another states that "too many illegals are in our country for a free ride." And another says that we are "just giving out more [welfare] and to people who aren't even citizens." In addition to being barred from receiving welfare benefits, unauthorized immigrants have a high rate of employment. If one makes any effort to look for it, it is easy to find a lot of evidence that immigrants come to the United States to work.

Obama Haters are also intensely Islamophobic. Ben Carson's statement that he "would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation" because he believes that Islam is "inconsistent with the values and principles of America" fits perfectly into the Obama-Hater view of the world. For Obama Haters, it is impossible for someone to be Muslim and American; one can only be Muslim or American. They incorrectly believe that Obama is Muslim, and therefore they see him as not American and as trying to destroy America. One Obama Hater says that Obama is "a Muslim radical set to destroy the country, replace the Constitution with Sharia law, and become dictator." Another argues that Obama has "un-American values, Islam values." Another Obama Hater says that Obama "has an unhealthy attitude toward Islam and its relationship to our democratic society." And another Obama Hater states, "He likes Muslims more than he likes us." Obama Haters would definitely see Carson's Islamophobia as a reason to support him.

I have previously pointed out that Donald Trump's hateful remarks would help him gain the support of the Obama-Hater segment of the Republican Party. Now that Carson has thrown his anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim remarks into the mix, it is not clear who the Obama Haters would favor. Carson is a serious contender for winning the Obama-Hater primary.

Algernon Austin is the author of America Is Not Post-Racial: Xenophobia, Islamophobia, Racism, and the 44th President which is the only book to analyze the 25 million Obama Haters in America.