By now you are probably familiar with Dr. Ben Carson. He has become somewhat of a media darling for the Republican party over the last few years. In case you didn't know, he is one of the two thousands one hundred and twenty four characters running for the Republican presidential nominee. While most might consider it an honor, all awkward debate performances aside, jumping head first into the world of politics may be the most challenging (and self revealing) task that Dr. Ben Carson has taken on in his life... and it has to absolutely suck.
1. HE HAS A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW
If there was ever a time provide a stark contrast to the past eight years of "totalitarian rule of a democratic elite regime", it's now. The chance to succeed Barack Obama, erase his legacy, and build their own offers up wet-deam-like satisfaction to the Bushs, Trumps, and Ted Cruz's of the world. Any Republican presidential candidate will tell you, they have been waiting for 2016, and they relish in the opportunity. Except, maybe, Ben Carson.
From the moment he set foot in the political arena, Dr. Ben Carson drew instant comparison to the man currently occupying the Oval Office. The well-spoken, highly educated, ultra-successful black guy was always been the Republican Party's cultural response to Obama. The problem is, he is not Obama. Outside of the superficial comparisons, the similarities end. Carson is not the personable, charismatic, charmer who began his career as a community organizer. He's a neurosurgeon who's personality can, often times, come off as dry, confrontational, and guarded. Carson wasn't blessed with a quick witted sense of humor, an innate ability to energize crowds, and a distinct voice that equal parts Bill Clinton and Martin Luther King. He's direct, succinct, calculated, a scientist (literally and figuratively). Carson doesn't come off initially as the candidate that has mastered the art of the grassroots movement that can translate into a billion-dollar-funded campaign. He has a very specialized group of followers, similar to Ron and Rand Paul, and would have trouble garnering massive support from his party (we will revisit this). President Obama somehow managed to have a permanent sense of "cool". No matter the situation, despite persistent pressures, regardless of the moments where we all expected him to lose that cool... he never did. Carson has already shown that he has a propensity to be quite contentious and has an air of awkwardness in moments of confrontation.
The only thing harder than being the first black president, ironically, might be being the second black president. Similar to having children, there is always a sense of expectation that must be met by the second, while the first was a term long experiment. The fact is, Ben Carson is not Barack Obama. In all actuality, he may be the anti-Obama. Unlike the rest of the Republican field, this is a problem unique to Carson.
2. HE HAS TO SHED THE "TOKEN NEGRO" LABEL
Anybody who has spent a significant amount of time on a predominantly White university has seen one. They typically stick out about as much as a zebra would running the Kentucky Derby. The "Token Black Guy". Think about your college tenure, remember the historically Caucasian fraternities on campus. There's a good chance they had one. Even the SAE chapter at the University of Oklahoma had one. You know, the one that sang "There will never be a nigger in SAE" more comfortably than a black deacon breaking out into an on cue rendition of "Amazing Grace" during devotionals? Yeah, they had one. The "Token Black Guy" is, more often than not, a quota filler. A checked box that allows a group to say with confidence that they are, indeed, "culturally diverse". A reassurance that if the time came that they were ever posed with the "how many black friends do you have" (a la Bill O'Reilly) they won't fall victim to that same moment of awkwardness. They are never really wanted. They are never really accepted. The aren't actually included. They're more of an inconvenient convenience.
The political beat-down the Republicans endured in 2008 left them to themselves for a moment of reflective soul searching. They found that (SURPRISE) they have a image problem when it comes to a lack of cultural inclusiveness. Their solution? Bobby Jindhal, Marco Rubio, and Herman Cain. The problem? Jindhal has completely alienated himself from his Indian heritage, Rubio possess an air of Hispanic authenticity that is rivaled only by your local Taco Bell, and Herman Cain was... well... Herman Cain. 2012 was no different. Afterwards, a ninety-seven page report was commissioned to remind the Republican party something they already knew: they have a glaring diversity issue.
After the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Lyndon B. Johnson said the bills passage would have "Niggers voting Democrat for 200 years". Apparently he was a bit more of a clairvoyant than a revolutionary. Since then the Black Republican has essentially been considered a statistical outlier from both sides of the lens. Accordingto most polls only 5% of African Americans identify as Republican, and over the past decade of elections, the GOP has struggled to garner much more than that in the form of support at the polls.
3. HE CAN'T CHANGE HIS OWN PARTY
Quite possibly the most difficult challenge the Black Republican faces is coming to grips with the fact that he is a supporter of the "inherently bigoted, racially prejudiced party". Of course not all republicans can be painted with the broad brush stroke of intolerance, but it's hard to deny the historic legacy that follows the party. It's hard to be a representation of the party that has stared your people in the face for decades and been the the primary source of oppression and opposition.
A campaign trip to southern states in 2015 will be a constant reminder that his increased melanin count is a sole justification for deep hatred directed at him from a good portion of his constituency. If he was to win the election, he would likely have to resort to requesting and accepting funds from organizations that challenge his very existance, and there will likely be some staunch republicans that will refuse to contribute to their candidate for no other reason than the color of his skin. He has already witnessed the amount of racially charged disdain that has been directed towards another politician of color in the opposing party, so trying to change the hearts of enough of those people to impact the race may prove to be an impossible task.
4. HE WILL ALWAYS BE "UNQUALIFIED"
"Incompetent", "Lazy", "Unqualified".
Those are some of the coded buzzwords that have been used to describe a man with a Bachelor's degree from Columbia, a Harvard Law Degree, a constitutional scholar and professor from a prominent university, and someone with political clout at the local and national level. That person's name was Barack Obama. Anyone else with a similar resume of another race wouldn'tface such scrutiny, however, for some reason, two ivy league degrees and an extensive track record doesn't fit the requirements for Obama.
Dr. Ben Carson's resume is impeccable. He is the nation's preeminent neurosurgeon and one of the greatest medical minds in the world. He is highly educated and articulate. He is well versed in politics and is, in every aspect of his life, a leader. However in running for president, this may be one of the first time in a long time that his accomplishments been considered "not good enough".
5. HE STILL WON'T GET THE BLACK VOTE
As stated before, the past 2 elections only rendered 5% of African American support for the Republican party. The average yields somewhere between 5-8% each cycle. How would Ben Carson expect to change that trend? Does he expect blacks to vote for him because he's black? 8 years ago, an African American with a decent possibility to become president could have held that expectation, however Black America is past that. We've seen the likes of the Herman Cain's of the Republican party, he barely made a dent in his short stint as a plausible option. Now take into consideration that the platform of the Republican party over the past 8 years has not been geared towards harnessing Black vote. In fact, the Republican party nation wide has done more to suppress the minority vote than to encourage it. When you throw in the last 8 years of contentious attitudes directed at the last person of color from the party, no matter how qualified, how likable, or how revolutionary Dr. Ben Carson would be as a presidential candidate, black folks won't vote for him.