Conservatives want to believe that there isn’t a problem with race these days. As they see it, once segregation was ended over 60 years ago, all of the years of slavery and inequality were instantly erased. Starting with the Civil Rights Act, every American was equal and the color of your skin was no longer an impediment to economic success. To them, presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson is proof of that.
The fact is that race is still very much an issue here in the United States, especially in the Bible Belt. Conservatives don’t want to come to terms with the reality that while we now have the first non-white president (who they utterly despise), the complete racial equality that Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of is still a long way off.
Their denial runs so deep that they fawn over black political figures or candidates who tell them that there isn’t a problem within the GOP with minorities or women. This is why Herman Cain was initially so popular during the last presidential election, and it’s why Ben Carson is number two in the polls behind Donald Trump (who himself is a master of racial dog whistle politics).
As Vox points out, conservatives love Dr. Ben Carson because he not only speaks the language on race that they love so much, but he’s also “proving” to them that race isn’t a hurdle these days, and anyone can succeed in America – if they just try hard enough.
That’s just what conservatives want to hear. As racial issues have gained salience in the age of Ferguson and Black Lives Matter, Republican responses have frequently seemed adrift and uncertain. So Carson — who is not just a black Republican but was, as Desmond-Harris put it, “a black folk hero” due to his rags-to-riches story — likely seems to many conservatives to be a very effective messenger pitching a conservative approach to racial issues.
Indeed, Carson has been a frequent critic of Black Lives Matter protesters, and wrote a recent op-ed telling them to focus less on police brutality and more on improving values, preventing drug use, and reducing dependence on government. He also mocked the offense some have taken at the use of the phrase “all lives matter” as “political correctness going amok.” Instead, he said, “Of course all lives matter, and of course we should be very concerned about what’s going on, particularly in our inner cities.” (Source)
It is a very simplistic message, and it resonates well with people who think the American Dream is within reach of anyone who just works hard enough.
Of course, this magical way of thinking isn’t confined solely to conservatives. There are many people on the left who think a Change.org petition will get Fox News’ broadcasting license revoked by the FCC, or that a petition will get the British authorities to arrest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for war crimes – despite the fact he hasn’t been formally charged for anything by the Hague.
As the Republican Party drifts ever further to the right with their rhetoric, there is an ever-growing need to counter those of us who point out they have a very real problem with racism. They want people to believe that racism is over, or that white conservative Christians are the real victims of persecution for refusing to follow the Constitution and Supreme Court rulings.
After the election of President Barack Obama, the Republican Party has tried to cast itself as a champion of minorities, so long as those people buy into their values. The GOP has produced female and African-American candidates. For a short period of time, Bobby Jindal was their young rising star, until he decided to embrace the far right in hopes of tying up the evangelical Christian vote.
Ultimately, I don’t think that Ben Carson will be the Republican nominee. For all of the conservatives who want to believe that their values are still the silent majority in America, there are many African-Americans who will reject someone who pretends that their issues are imagined. Combine that with the rabidly xenophobic rhetoric of Donald Trump, and it’s no surprise why the Republican Party is ultimately doomed to internal war and extinction.
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