Monday, October 26, 2015

The Ben Carson Boom

I like to keep an eye on European elections because I think they roughly parallel voter sentiment in the United States. And the results in parliamentary elections in Poland yesterday presage a rightward drift here. Rick Lyman reports in "Right-Wing Party Roars Back in Polish Elections" that
Poland’s chief right-wing opposition party, out of power for nearly a decade, came roaring back in parliamentary voting Sunday, apparently seizing control of the government with a platform that mixes calls for higher wages with appeals to traditional Catholic values.

Private exit polls, released immediately after voting ended Sunday evening, showed the party, Law and Justice, drawing 39.1 percent of the vote, trouncing Civic Platform, the center-right party that has led Poland since 2007, which got 23.4 percent. 
Law and Justice immediately declared victory and Civic Platform conceded defeat, although the final results will not be made official until Tuesday.
In an especially telling result, highlighting how Poland was joining many regional neighbors in a shift to the right, none of the country’s left-wing or social democratic parties appeared to have qualified for seats in Parliament for the first time in Poland’s post-communist history. 
“Let us not lose spirit,” said Barbara Nowacka, head of the Left Alliance. “Although society tell us, ‘No, we want the right,’ we do know that the time for the left will come and then we will be waiting, strong and determined, with our heads high.” 
With 38 million residents, Poland is both the largest and the most economically vibrant nation in Eastern Europe and has emerged in recent years as a regional leader. Still, disenchanted voters have proved increasingly tired of hearing about a thriving economy that they feel has left too many behind and that still lags far behind those of more prosperous, Western European nations.
There is no question that Poland is the most "American" of the former Warsaw Pact countries. These election results afford us insight into what is coming our way next year. It will be a conservative election I believe.

When I think of conservative voters I think of the story of Red Cloud that a buddy related to me recently. Red Cloud was possibly the greatest Oglala Lakota war chief. Never defeated in battle, Red Cloud put away his war bonnet for keeps and settled down to life on the rez after traveling to the East and seeing how many white people there were living in cities, cities that appeared innumerable and indistinguishable from one another.

The white-faced hordes that defeated Red Cloud without firing a shot, that is conservative America.

Which is why it is strange that the choice of the right wing at the moment appears to be a soft-spoken black man from Detroit.

Last week, to great fanfare in the mainstream media, Ben Carson bested Donald Trump in a couple of Iowa polls. Carson has been close to Trump for weeks (with all other candidates far behind). Trump has remained remarkably steady at the top, much to the displeasure of Beltway power brokers. Carson's top finish in two polls changed that and allowed the mainstream medium fog machine to crank into full gear. But even in the fog one can find a ray of sunshine, an example of which is this morning's "Calm Manner Has Ben Carson Rising in Polls" by Trip Gabriel:
Mr. Carson swept past Mr. Trump in two polls of Iowa Republicans last week despite infrequently visiting the state. Now, he is promising to return at least twice monthly leading up to the Feb. 1 caucuses. 
“The key thing for me is I don’t sit down and strategize like politicians, because I’m not a politician,” he told reporters. “I don’t want to be a politician. I think we need some authenticity. We need some honesty in our country right now.” 
Mr. Carson’s support has not been dimmed by his statements on the unsuitability of a Muslim to be president; his linking of gun control and the Holocaust; and his likening of President Obama’s health care law to slavery. On the contrary, 57 percent of Republicans in the Register poll rated as “very attractive” his comparison of the health care law to slavery, and 73 percent said his opposition to a Muslim as president made him more attractive.
On Sunday, Mr. Carson gave critics more fuel by opposing abortion in cases of rape or incest, saying on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “I would not be in favor of killing a baby because the baby came about in that way.” 
Mr. Carson’s rise in Iowa is driven by his consolidation of evangelical voters, who constitute close to 60 percent of Republican caucusgoers, a trend that could carry him strongly into later voting states in the South with similar demographics.
People are very attracted to Ben Carson’s bedside demeanor,” said Bob Vander Plaats, a leader of the Christian right in Iowa. 
Traditionally, a single anti-establishment candidate has emerged from the state, finishing in the top two or three, around whom conservative Republicans rally. Mr. Carson, Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz are all vying for the role.
In two surveys last week, Mr. Carson led Mr. Trump soundly by eight and nine percentage points. A third survey by CBS News released Sunday showed the two tied in the state, but Mr. Trump held a robust lead in two other early voting states, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

“I don’t understand Iowa because, frankly, I just left and we had tremendous crowds and tremendous enthusiasm,” Mr. Trump told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “Frankly, even to be tied, I’m a little surprised.” 
Mr. Trump appeals to a somewhat different demographic from Mr. Carson’s: working-class voters with high school educations, for whom social issues and religious beliefs are less important. The rally he described, which drew thousands, was in the Democratic-leaning eastern side of the state, where he has done most of his campaigning. 
Many of those drawn to Mr. Carson and Mr. Trump have not participated in Iowa’s caucus system before, making them more difficult to organize. The two are undertaking among the most aggressive efforts by any of the 15 Republicans running to encourage caucus participation.
My take on all this is that very little has changed. Carson is winning the evangelical rubes in Iowa more robustly now than in weeks past. That is all. Trump is not losing support among the "Reagan Democrats,"  voters the GOP has always needed in order to win a presidential election.

Carson is all hokum for the hayseeds. His candidacy is designed to stifle Trump's momentum. Carson's policy positions are so absurd -- abolishing Medicare in favor of private health savings accounts (which Carson now is trying to disavow) -- that he can never be more than a curiosity, as a DownWithTyranny! post persuasively argues.

Much like Joe Biden served as a decoy to tamp down the rush to Bernie Sanders -- have you noticed any anguish following his announcement last Wednesday that he won't be pursuing the presidency? -- until a media boom could be generated for Hillary following the first Democratic Party debate, Ben Carson is being used to block Trump. If he succeeds at his task, which I don't believe he will, he will be discarded for one of the Establishment candidates. Marco Rubio is the one that the GOP power elite are hankering for.

But Trump will not be blocked so easily because he is espousing populist economics. That is his trump card.


  1. Except that Red Cloud was in no way fooled -- he was simply given unique access to very good data. He was toured around New York City and shown the awesome and utterly overwhelming superiority of numbers and materiel available to his adversary. His subsequent efforts to get his people to stop fighting and negotiate -- even though they had been winning their war -- stemmed from his better understanding of reality.

    I agree though, Carson cannot possibly last, and I can't see him doing that much damage to Trump. But then, I've accurately predicted next to nothing about this election cycle.

  2. Carson's problem is similar to Sanders'. How to project power after Iowa and New Hampshire? In South Carolina Trump is walloping Carson, something I'm sure is replicated in the other Southern Super Tuesday states. The Carson boom is largely a media concoction.

    The media serves the power elite. The power elites wants Trump gone. Trump is not going and appears unbeatable. The idea behind the Carson boom is a reprise of the initial mainstream reaction to Trump: His popularity is merely linked to his celebrity and it will fade. If you can convince the people out in TV Land that it is actually Carson who is popular, then maybe the rubes will migrate to Carson and Trump will deflate. It is not going to happen. But it illuminates the lengths the power elite will go.

    The media manufactured Biden non-event and Hillary "turnaround" show great sophistication and a high level of coordination, which is of course what one would expect when you consider the huge stakes involved. Speaking of the Lakota, I think 2016 is shaping up to be a Ghost Dance kind of year. Or possibly that is just wishful thinking on my part. Eighteen-ninety, the year of the Ghost Dance, was the year 1890 census was done for the first time on a electronic tabulating machine; it was also the census that declared the end of the U.S. frontier. Frederick Jackson Turner argued that what made American democracy unique was its Western frontier. It is no coincidence that the birth of Big Data coincides with the end of U.S. continental expansion. Empire soon followed with the acquisition of the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico. But if another Ghost Dance is coming next year what quantum leap would it augur? Maybe the overdue discarding of the fiction of American democracy.