To be sure, Ben Carson is an accomplished pediatric neurosurgeon, which obviously means he’s intelligent. It’s just one of the qualities that make him so attractive to the conservative grassroots, which can look past his skin color because he makes the right culture war noises and he was unafraid to voice them in President Obama’s face that one time at a prayer breakfast.
It’s not hard to see why Carson’s veneer of intelligence delights reactionaries. For instance, see the above video in which Carson rationalizes his affection for creationism and other bunk pseudoscience. He’s had a steep learning curve on these issues, for they attract the evangelical right like flies to honey but don’t translate into mainstream acceptability anymore. You can’t compare gay marriage to pedophilia and bestiality, for example, or call the pope antichrist, and expect the Republican Party to rally to your standard these days.
Carson also seems to be having severe management issues, and his financial difficulties are indicative of a troubled campaign. Last Friday, the Washington Post reported that Carson has experienced friction with independent organizations that are ostensibly supposed to boost his campaign.
Two independent super PACs designed to help Carson are instead competing directly with Carson’s campaign for donations and volunteers, while campaign chairman Terry Giles resigned last month with the intention of forming a third super PAC.
Giles said he intends to try to convince the other two super PACs, called Run Ben Run and One Vote, to cease operations so that all outside efforts can be coordinated through the new group. But with Carson’s brand a galvanizing force on the right, there are potentially millions of dollars to be raised off his name, and the other super PACs are said to be reluctant to shut down.
“They are going after the same small donors, and we’ve simply got to figure this out or else we are going up against each other the whole time,” Giles said. “I’m planning to sit down with them and explain that.”
Conservatives can’t pretend not to see this anymore. Carson fans should have understood this contradiction since at least February, when conservative blogger John Hawkins published a remarkable exposé of the sheer scammery that goes on in conservative political organizations, often while using the candidate’s name, in a circle of scam that wastes tens of millions of dollars a year in grassroots money without helping candidates one little bit.
Did you know that despite the fact that it raised a staggering 13 million dollars, The National Draft Ben Carson for President isn’t affiliated with Ben Carson and the small percentage of money it spent on independent expenditures didn’t go to him? Now you know why Ben Carson’s business manager, Armstrong Williams wouldn’t allow the group’s campaign director to take a picture with Carson and said, “People giving money think it’s going to Dr. Carson and it’s not. …Our hands are tied. We don’t want people exploited.”
The National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee was also the standout fundraiser among super PACs in the first quarter of 2014, outstripping even Ready for Hillary, which means that even if both of the other organizations shut down as Giles wants, Carson will still be competing against one of the most successful fundraising outfits in the nation while it uses his name to raise unaccountable funds that will mainly be spent on themselves.
Yet here lies the rub: there are two federal agencies which could potentially do something about this state of affairs, but both have been defanged by conservative activism. The Federal Elections Commission is gridlocked by political ideology, while the IRS has recently been the target of an organized smear campaign by right wing political nonprofits whining about delays in their status approval. The latter nontroversy was ginned up to conceal the endemic fraud going on in conservative politics. Carson himself has touted personal conspiracy theories regarding an IRS audit and wants to abolish the agency altogether, which will surely not improve the situation.
Carson both resolves and exemplifies the cognitive dissonance of the political movement with which he identifies. On the one hand, conservatives love being able to vote for African Americans who master the culture war catechism — witness the enduring popularity of Alan Keyes among the Benghazi-obsessed set, for example. On the other hand, Carson opposes revitalizing the very agencies which, given the right mandate, could shut down or at least regulate the political fundraising organizations that are using his name to scam the very people who believe in his cause most strongly. Those grassroots donors are not a fungible commodity, but Carson is.