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God’s Ticket: Cruz/Carson (1 of 2)

November 10, 2015

or, Magical Mythical Thinking

As I admitted the other day, I have been neglecting some of the Republican candidates in this narrative, including Carson and Cruz; but apparently God has been paying close attention to them.

If The Good Lord has anything to say about it, the Republican ticket will be Cruz/Carson. Or so they think.

They are both messianic in their faith about themselves, and thus in their faith in themselves. You can thank God for that, or you can thank Cruz’s father and Carson’s mother (or all three).

Polling suggests that roughly 35% of Republicans are enraptured by these two candidates, whom they perceive to be militantly fundamentalist evangelical Christians—a higher percentage in Iowa, where, today, Carson might win the primary with a strong plurality.

Although at this moment he is leading in the national polls and may well win the Iowa primary, in my opinion the least of these, i.e. the lesser of these two is Dr. Ben Carson, and I’ll begin with him. My impression of him is based on his performances in the debates, various news reports and commentary, his “famous” 2013 speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in DC—apparently it is quite famous among evangelicals, as a kind of battle cry (here is the text, and here is the video), and the very recent, political review (by Carlos Lozada, Washington Post) of his five autobiographical and inspirational books.

In his speech (and apparently in his books), the main image is Dr. Ben Carson himself, an especially “smart” pediatric brain surgeon who is directly empowered by God to perform miraculous cures, tell parables, and speak the truth, even if it offends the wicked. (One might add, just because his perfection and humility inspire nastiness, empowered to sell himself via speeches and books). He means no harm. Indeed, he is the worst of sinners, but he has been redeemed.

His is a Horation Alger story combining W. E. B. Dubois’s “talented 10th” with God’s promise to anyone who truly believes that we are free to control our own individual destiny. God has given us a system, including a model for a flat tax; we need only be steadfast as a light house in our belief, and belief in ourselves, within that system.

His story and image are very powerful in the psyches of his evangelical audience. And the fact that they are mostly white folks, and he is black folks, seems to make the image all the more powerful for them. I think there are two reasons for that: (1) he presents himself as the triumphant counter-argument to both the supposition of racism and the need for public assistance for the poor, especially the black poor; and (2) he is the anti-Anti-Christ Obama (and it is telling that, in the minds of conservatives, at the Prayer Breakfast, with the President sitting within feet of him, he had the audacity to beard the Lion—but hey, he didn’t mean to offend anyone, he is simply a compulsive truth-teller).

His story also holds great power for evangelicals, and conservatives generally, and for the reasons suggested above (so to speak). His black mother was desperately poor, but she refused the excuse of victimhood and taught her boys to blame themselves for any frustrations, instead of blaming anyone else, to value knowledge and truth, and to believe absolutely in their direct personal relationship with God, who answers their every prayer.

Carson has become, himself, a bringer of knowledge, through scholarships and gifts of books.

But most important, he has become a self-made Free Man, and a fully self-confident, humbly righteous, speaker of truth. Even to presidents. To illustrate and explain this, because everybody can and should be this way, in his speech he sets up the standard straw man of “the PC Police” who are ruining the nation by telling him and everybody that we must not think certain thoughts that they don’t like, or say certain truths that they don’t like. He then speaks his mind by saying things that he says they don’t like, and that proves that they exist and that he can overcome them. Go and do likewise.

Thus Carson psychologically absolves white evangelicals of any possible guilt because they are racists, white (which they believe people are saying makes them guilty), Christian (which they believe people are saying makes them guilty) or members of the struggling poor or inferior middle class (not showing financial progress) (which they believe people are saying makes them guilty). God loves them, and will empower them with his Truth, through His servant, Carson.

The accuracy of Carson’s story is now being researched and may be largely debunked, in its details other than his prowess as a surgeon (as such, he says he can “fix things”). After tonight’s debate, he might be toast.

But as he might have quoted: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set yous free.”

The point is that the story and image that he has presented of himself is a fantasy that has captured, if temporarily, the vote of many conservatives, especially evangelicals, and therefore is indicative of their fixed imagination of themselves and others.

And btw, even if a large (but not majority) voting block within the Republican Party continues to want Carson for President, he won’t get the nomination, because no kingmaker in the Party (Establishment, Kochs, Fox, Trump, other billionaires) will want that. None of them would benefit from his candidacy.

[Cruz will appear on page 2 of this episode.]

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  1. God’s Ticket: Cruz/Carson (2 of 2) | tomkoontz

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