NBCBLK is running a series of articles posing custom questions toward each candidate running for office: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bernie Sanders, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz , Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for starters.
This series looks at policy and home turf issues, and evaluates how those factors would specifically impact African American voters. We look at existing policy, statements and legislation, and ask questions based on what the candidate has already laid out. Hopefully their campaigns will feel compelled to respond.
Dr. Ben Carson is one of the most successful and well known pediatric neurosurgeons in the world. He practiced medicine for almost three decades at John’s Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, treating medical problems from routine brain surgery to separating conjoined twins. He wrote several best -selling books ("Gifted Hands" was turned into a movie), built a successful lecture career, and frequently spoke about how faith guided his groundbreaking work.
For all practical purposes Ben Carson had no political leanings one way or another in his career. He didn’t get involved in Maryland or even Baltimore politics, and never made any major financial contributions to any campaigns of note throughout his time in Maryland.
Carson burst onto the political scene after giving a talk at the Value Voters Summit in 2013 where he railed against the Affordable Care Act, and soon after there was a move to “draft” him into the 2016 campaign.
Carson steadily built momentum and was actually tied with Donald Trump for a couple of weeks last fall as the preferred candidate of Republican primary voters until late November when public sentiment moved to foreign policy, an area where the Doctor admittedly struggles. Despite finishing fourth in Iowa on Monday, he says he will still remain in the race.
With no political or policy background to examine African American voters considering supporting Ben Carson should have many serious questions to consider.
1. What is your position on the Affordable Care Act?
Dr. Ben Carson’s first major public foray into the political realm came when he gave a speech at the Value Voters summit in 2013 where he said “Obamacare is the worst thing to happen to America since slavery.”
He went on to discuss how the policy harms Americans, and makes them subservient to the government. In and of themselves Dr. Carson’s opinions about the affordable care act aren’t unique amongst Republicans and many Americans have problems with aspects of the ACA even if they don’t use provocative or historically inaccurate comparisons to do so.
The question isn’t what Carson believes about the ACA but more what does he actually believe about healthcare policy in general. In 1996 Dr. Carson wrote an essay in the Harvard Journal of Minority Public Health outlining a national healthcare plan that would provide catastrophic care, healthcare vouchers for the poor (similar to food stamps) and severely constrain healthcare companies.
In 2010 Ben Carson further revised his healthcare believes and state that for profit health insurance companies are essentially immoral and that the government should make them irrelevant.
Finally as of the 2015 campaign season Dr. Carson is advocating for medical savings accounts, where the government would provide everyone with $2,000 a year for life to cover medical expenses all but eliminating Medicaid. Some see these plans as one straight line of policy evolution, but it could also be seen as inconsistency or lack of clear policy on healthcare. African Americans, who make up the bulk of chronic disease suffers in many areas, should ask Dr. Ben Carson what is his actual Affordable Care Act replacement, and whether he has abandoned or is still considering his previous policy plans.
2. How will you handle foreign Policy?
Dr. Ben Carson is not a foreign policy expert and has been quite clear throughout his presidential run that he would have to learn on the job about many foreign policy issues. However, his positions on how to handle potential terrorism in the United States and abroad are worth examining for African American voters.
Carson has stated that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve as president, and that tracking Muslims, specifically because of their faith is a potential way to fight terrorism. Further as part of Ben Carson’s seven point plan to defeat ISIS he’s advised sending U.S. troops to fight in the Middle East and investigating the Council on American–Islamic Relations as a potential terror front.
If a Ben Carson administration seeks to increase the number of troops on the ground what is his plan to beef up support, healthcare or post service opportunities for the men and women, many of whom will be African American, who are called to serve?
Next, over 13 percent of practicing Muslims in America are African American (meaning both parents born in this county). Black voters should ask of Dr. Ben Carson’s plan of monitoring Muslims is constitutional and how that anti-terrorism policy might have a particularly harmful effect on African Americans who already suffer under policy harassment and scrutiny.
3. Can we Take Your Campaign Seriously ?
The choice of whom you will support in a campaign season, even during the primaries is extremely important, and for many African Americans deciding whether or not to support Ben Carson requires a serious inquiry in just how serious his actual campaign is.
His campaign has raised and spent a tremendous amount of money but very little on campaign staff. He’s suspended his campaign to go on a book tour. He’s not spent a great deal of time in New Hampshire. These factors and many others have caused some to wonder if Carson is running for President or to simply promote himself.
Dr. Ben Carson is without question a brilliant surgeon, but throughout the campaign he’s continued to say things that are not only the grist of last night comedic monologues but so outlandish and factually incorrect that African American voters should consider whether or not he is serious about his campaign.
Ben Carson’s various statements include: Mistaking the purpose of the pyramids, blaming the Oregon shooting victims for their own deaths, stating that the Holocaust happened because of gun control, and that many Americans are stupid.
Further he’s been caught lying or exaggerating his life story several times. While lying and exaggerating are not grounds for disqualification in politics, when a candidate does not have a policy record to examine, their honesty about their own lives becomes one of your few methods of evaluation.
Consequently African American voters should consider asking Dr. Ben Carson if he is in fact a serious candidate and how, if so, he plans on actually conducting himself in office in a manner different than how he has during the campaign.