The rise of the political outsider.
That's the best way to describe this election season so far. Candidates like Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina have all enjoyed popularity surges as they introduce and establish themselves to voters. If you've read one of my earlier posts ("How Long Can Donald Trump Remain the 'Teflon Don'") you know how perplexed I am about Trump's lead in the polls throughout the summer and, so far, much of the fall.
However, the Teflon may finally be wearing off, as Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, pulled ahead of Trump in the latest New York Times/CBS News national poll. According to the poll, 26 percent of Republican primary voters support Carson, compared to 22 percent who support Trump. This stands in contrast to last month's New York Times/CBS News poll, which had Trump leading with 27 percent support to Carson's 23 percent.
While Trump's enormous popularity this summer had surprised me, I must say that Carson's surge has worried me. Deeply. I understand Carson's appeal from a surface standpoint. To be honest, when I first learned about Carson and his presidential bid, he seemed like an interesting candidate. His 30-year career in neurosurgery, calm demeanor, and refusal to attack other candidates, painted a picture of a smart, collected, and classy contender. Granted, a distinguished career in neurosurgery doesn't qualify anyone for political office, but I thought Carson deserved a chance. That is until I read up on some of his political positions and heard some of his downright delirious sound bytes in recent months.
It is precisely these views that have me worried about Carson's rise in the polls. Can we really elect someone who believes Islam is "inconsistent with our Constitution" and that being gay is a choice? Or one who compares abortion to slavery and forbids it even in cases of rape and incest? Or one who claims the Holocaust could've been prevented if the Jews had been better armed?
It's simply nonsense. No, it's worse. It's scary. Carson said these things. He truly believes them.
When pressed on his comments about a Muslim being unfit to lead the nation, Carson said the only way he'd be comfortable with it would be if "they place their hand on a Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution."
When expanding on his remark that being gay was a choice, he cited incarceration as an example, stating, "A lot of people who go to prison straight... when they come out they're gay... So did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question."
Dr. Carson, ask yourself this question: What event influenced your choice to be heterosexual? Was there any specific moment in your childhood that you can point to?
You'd think that an experienced doctor would understand the complications of pregnancy and how in some cases, it can affect a mother's health, and that of her unborn child. However, Carson stated his desire to overturn Roe v. Wade, and outlaw abortion even in cases of rape and incest.
He then compared abortion and slavery through the lens of choice.
"During slavery, a lot of the slave owners thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave," Carson said on Sunday's Meet the Press. "Anything that they chose to do."
Did someone as educated as Carson seriously compare an unborn fetus to a slave, and an expectant mother to a slave master?
The real kicker? According to Monday's poll, Carson is leading Trump among women voters.
Arguably the most troubling sound byte came in early October, in the wake of the Umpqua Community College shooting that left 10 people dead. Carson offered a tone-deaf response to Fox & Friends on the question of how he'd act if he were at the school.
"I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say, 'Hey, guys, everybody attack him! He may shoot me, but he can't get us all,'" Carson said with a callous chuckle.
I'm serious. He chuckled. Watch the video.
Carson may be calm, cool, and collected when it comes to his effect. However, it's clear that he's capable of the same incendiary rhetoric that has marked Donald Trump's campaign. The candidates' ignorance scrapes the bottom of the political barrel, and the backlash doesn't seem to affect their poll numbers.
I worry that, as 2016 nears, and voters consolidate and seriously consider their choice for president, if Carson is a legitimate option. Is this the candidate the GOP wants? One who spouts sexist, xenophobic rhetoric, and shies away from discussing specifics of domestic and foreign policy issues? I feel Carson is like Trump in many ways. The only difference is in their demeanors.
I do take some solace in that 70 percent of respondents in Monday's poll said they hadn't yet settled on a choice. There's no doubt the candidates have plenty of time to re-invent themselves in the coming months. They will hone in on their message and make stronger pushes to unite their respective bases. At this point, though, I believe that Carson is just a quieter version of Trump.
I'm sure Dr. Carson is a nice guy. He's distinguished himself as a leading neurosurgeon, author, and commentator. However, as a politician, he uses his subdued, friendly attitude to soften the blow of his inflammatory statements.
In that sense, he's a wolf in sheep's clothing.