The Corner

Politics & Policy

Ben Carson’s Generic Populism Falls Flat When Trump Is the Story’s Hero

Ben Carson’s speech at the RNC was everything you would expect a Ben Carson speech to be. He smiled wide, thanked the crowd a great deal for their applause, and went on to speak about the miracle of the human brain. He also suggested that our amazing powers of reason ought to be diverted to the task of supporting Donald Trump for the presidency.

Carson’s speech, in other words, was pabulum — weak on substance, strong on his trademark religiously-rooted, populist rhetoric. “This is a nation,” he said, “where our founding document — the Declaration of Independence — talks about certain inalienable rights that come from our Creator. This is a nation where our Pledge of Allegiance says, ‘We are one nation under God.’ This is a nation where every coin in our pocket and every bill in our wallet says, ‘In God we trust!’”

“If we continue to allow them to take God out our lives,” Carson added, “God will remove himself from us, we will not be blessed, and our nation will go down the tubes.”

Luckily, however, Carson had a fix: Donald Trump. “Trump, Carson proposed, “understands that the blessings of this nation come with the responsibility to ensure that they are available for all and not just the privileged few It is found in his desire to put his considerable skills to work on behalf of America’s interests and not just his self-interest. I am proud to support Donald Trump — an extraordinary businessman and the right leader for a time such as this.”

In truth, Carson would have made the same speech at a convention led by nominees Cruz, Bush, Paul, Walker, or Rubio. But in this case it rang distressingly hollow. Why? Because the Republican nominee does not exemplify the virtues of which Carson spoke. “When we elect a president,” he said, “we need to use that power of reason to look at their history, their character, what kind of people they really are. It makes all the difference in the world for us, and it is going to be so critical right now.”

Perhaps so. But the GOP did not nominate a man with admirable history or character, and if it is smart it will do all it can to obfuscate what sort of man Donald “really” is. In a standard year — with a candidate such as Hillary Clinton on the other side of the aisle — such a call may have been effective. This time around, though, it will likely have the opposite effect on the majority of Americans, who do not look favorably on Trump, to put it mildly.

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