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The Political Rise and Fall of Dr. Ben Carson (Part One)

By Justin Soutar
5/17/2016 (1 year ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Within two and a half years' time, Dr. Ben Carson's political star had climbed with extraordinary steadiness from the horizon to the zenith, where it shone with dazzling brilliance--and then suddenly it plunged toward the opposite horizon, disappearing from view entirely in a matter of weeks. What happened here? How did the previously little-known Dr. Carson so quickly achieve the status of a major presidential candidate, only to find himself leaving the race just as things were heating up?

Highlights

By Justin Soutar
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
5/17/2016 (1 year ago)

Published in Blog

Keywords: politics, election, 2016, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, media, Christian, Republican,


RICHMOND, VA - Two months ago in early March, following a slew of major defeats in the primary elections, award-winning neurosurgeon, popular speaker, bestselling author and Tea Party candidate Dr. Benjamin S. Carson officially announced that he had decided to withdraw from the presidential race.

For those millions of us citizens across America who had been his loyal and dedicated supporters for the previous several months and years, the sudden demise and fizzling out of Dr. Carson's remarkable presidential campaign came as a jarring and profoundly disappointing anticlimax. Carson's stunningly dramatic rise from relative obscurity to a leading presidential candidate in less than a year's time appeared to bode well for his chances of winning a substantial number of state primary elections--and thus a sufficient number of delegates to the upcoming Republican National Convention--to secure his adopted party's nomination for President of the United States in 2016.


Unfortunately, however, Dr. Carson's performance in the early Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada primary election contests in February, as well as in the Super Tuesday primaries of March 1, failed to meet the expectations of his hardworking organizers and supporters, who had reasonably expected him to carry at least a handful of these critical early voting states. Instead, closely reflecting national polling data at the time, Ben Carson came in consistently third or fourth in each state's election returns behind Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

In the wake of Super Tuesday, with more than one fourth of the states having already voted, Carson had amassed a total of only about 60 delegates--not even one-twentieth of the total necessary to clinch the GOP nomination. Since the math and polling trends now rendered electoral victory extremely unlikely if not impossible, Carson's campaign team realized that it would be futile for him to continue to stay in the race. Calmly facing the unpleasant reality of defeat with his characteristic humility and wisdom, Carson acted prudently in bowing out of the primary election contest when he did.

Within two and a half years' time, Dr. Ben Carson's political star had climbed with extraordinary steadiness from the horizon to the zenith, where it shone with dazzling brilliance--and then suddenly it plunged toward the opposite horizon, disappearing from view entirely in a matter of weeks.

What happened here? How did the previously little-known Dr. Carson so quickly achieve the status of a major presidential candidate, only to find himself leaving the race just as things were heating up?


Paradoxically, Dr. Carson had laid firm groundwork for his presidential run by building a solid reputation outside the political realm in the fields of medicine, education, business, and culture. He is probably best known for his trailblazing twenty-nine year career as the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, during which he performed more than 36,000 surgeries with an extremely low patient mortality rate, including the first-ever successful separation of twin boys joined at the back of the head. For his veritable encyclopedia of stunning achievements as a neurosurgeon, President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008.

For a number of years, through the Carson Scholars Fund, Ben and his wife had been working to reform and improve America's education system by setting up reading rooms in inner-city elementary schools across the country to encourage more kids to read books, stimulating better academic performance through a merit-based reward system, and offering scholarships to promising students from low-income families.

In addition to the significant business experience he accumulated as head of the multi-million-dollar pediatric neurosurgery division at Johns Hopkins for three decades, Dr. Carson had served on the corporate boards of a number of Fortune 500 companies, including Costco and Kellogg's.

Finally, Carson's fascinating rise from a single-parent childhood of poverty in inner-city Detroit to a world-class neurosurgeon had won the respect and admiration of many Americans of different races and backgrounds who had read his popular autobiography Gifted Hands (1990) or seen the TV documentary of the same title (2009). More recently, Ben Carson's influence on American culture was further strengthened by several other widely read books, including the number one New York Times bestsellers America the Beautiful (2012) and One Nation (2014); the latter sold an astonishing forty-two million copies in the ten weeks following its release, outselling Hillary Clinton's simultaneously released autobiography Hard Choices three to one.

What initially catapulted Ben Carson into the political limelight was his brilliant, thoughtful, frank, courageous, and respectful off-the-cuff address at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast attended by President Obama and Vice President Biden - a monumental discourse which deserves a place in the annals of conservative oratory alongside Barry Goldwater's 1964 speech at the Republican National Convention and Ronald Reagan's famous "Evil Empire" address of 1983. In this eloquent and well-balanced critique of contemporary America, delivered while he was still practicing neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Carson put ObamaCare, our nation's tax system, our national debt, and our moral decline into perspective and suggested some biblically-based, common-sense solutions to these problems.

To those who heard him speak that February morning, it was obvious that Dr. Carson was endowed with a rare ability to discuss complex issues in simple terms that any layperson could easily understand. It was this highly accessible speech that introduced him to the nation as a great communicator with a solid grasp of America's founding principles and ignited a national movement to draft Ben Carson into the 2016 presidential race.

From that time onward, as a popular speaker and author of multiple bestselling books, Dr. Carson became increasingly well-known within both the African-American community and the wider American cultural arena for his insightful and articulate reflections on what made our country great; for the simple stories he often used from his own experience to illustrate a point; for his intelligent and original opinions on how to resolve our national problems; and for his optimistic vision of America's future based on a return to our nation's founding principles. And his character traits of self-reliance, hard work, honesty and integrity, humility, courtesy, and compassion, combined with his devout Christian faith, traditional moral values, and record of exemplary achievement, made him a principled leader and a shining example of the American dream whose mass appeal transcended racial and political boundaries.


In short, millions of Americans already knew, liked, and trusted Ben Carson for months and years before he ever became a presidential candidate.

The ironic thing is that, despite his authentic leadership credentials, Dr. Carson had never desired or intended to run for President of the United States. When the suggestion was first made to him immediately following the 2013 speech, he laughed it off as ridiculous. After all, he was a sixty-plus-year-old pediatric neurosurgeon on the verge of retirement and a registered Independent with no prior experience in politics. But his address at the National Prayer Breakfast had unwittingly prompted the establishment of a super PAC called the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee under the leadership of conservative political activist John Philip Sousa IV-and once that ball got started rolling, it continued to steadily gain momentum.

During the next two years, at the instigation of this committee, upwards of 500,000 Americans insistently clamored for Ben Carson to run for president on the Republican ticket, claiming that his leadership in the White House was desperately needed to straighten our country out. Finally, in May of 2015, the reticent Dr. Carson acquiesced to the will of the people and threw his hat into the presidential ring, entering an already crowded field of contenders for the GOP nomination.

At that time, national polls registered Ben Carson as the presidential choice of about 5 percent of Americans, so it wasn't surprising that the mainstream media initially paid him little attention. He was a classic longshot candidate for the White House, and most observers never seriously expected him to surge out of the bottom category into the top tier of likely presidential candidates. They were in for a surprise. Carson's entry into the race further elevated his public profile, stimulating his modest and already growing support base to expand at an accelerated tempo.

Slowly but unmistakably, Ben Carson's national poll numbers started to climb out of the doldrums, leaving single digits behind within a few weeks. (During this time, he also made quite a splash as the surprise winner of the first televised Republican debate.) By the end of June, Dr. Carson had risen to 18 percent, making him the second most popular Republican candidate, and he continued to surge throughout the summer, steadily gaining on Donald Trump. In August, he was tied with Trump for the number one spot, and by early October, Carson had actually overtaken Trump to become the leading Republican presidential candidate in national polls--and despite the predictions of naysayers, he managed to hold that enviable position for the next two months straight.

If Ben Carson's five-month ascendancy from near-oblivion to the pinnacle of the GOP field and his two-month dominance of that field represented astonishing achievements and newsworthy events from the perspective of any reasonable observer, the reaction of the radically secularist mainstream media pundits on both sides of the political aisle was even more astonishing. With conspiratorial uniformity, they ignored Dr. Carson almost entirely.

Despite their earlier casual dismissals and negative predictions, here he was leading in national polls, sharing the center of every debate stage with Mr. Trump, yet there was no serious discussion of why this was happening, no thoughtful commentary on this remarkable and unexpected development, no extensive interviews with Ben Carson on the major networks. Instead, we were saddled with a nearly total mainstream media blackout of Dr. Carson, while the lion's share of big media attention remained obsessively devoted to Trump, Bush and Christie.

This incomprehensibly hypocritical and blatantly unfair treatment of Ben Carson on the part of America's media elite represented a prime example of biased and irresponsible journalism. Journalists bear a responsibility to the general public to convey and reflect upon the truth of what's actually going on, but in this case the Beltway journalists were obviously at pains to conceal the truth because it didn't mesh with their radically secularist agenda for our nation.

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