Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Truth behind Ben Carson's Candidacy: Why Winning May Not Be his Goal

by Nomad

Many have scoffed at Dr. Ben Carson's campaign. Some have wondered if he isn't mentally unstable.
But only a few have questioned whether he is actually running for office.

Writing for the Daily Intelligencer, Jonathan Chait, may be on to something. In a recent article, he asks the question:
Is Republican Candidate Ben Carson actually running for office?

Strange question, you might say, but the possible answer might surprise you. Carson's got a plan. 

An Ice Cube's Chance in Hell

Let's face the facts about Carson and the GOP. Carson hasn't an ice cube's chance in hell of ever possibly winning his party's nomination. 

The Republican Party has, since the days of Nixon, devoted so much energy wooing the Southern bigot vote. Critics of the GOP have long cited racist elements in the party. 
So, the very idea that, after eight years of unreasonable obstruction for America's black president, the Republican party would ever in a million years nominate a black candidate is mind-bogglingly ridiculous. 
Even the most qualified black candidate would never have a chance.
And Carson is far from being the best qualified.

As Chait points out, Carson "has never run for elected office. He has never managed a large organization; he has not worked in and around public policy, and he lacks a competent grasp of issues."
That's putting it mildly. 
In an election cycle chocked to the brim with candidates of dubious qualifications, Carson is probably the least of the pack and yet, here he is, leading the polls.
So despite all those negatives, Carson is apparently running for president. 
So what gives?

Chait believes he has the answer. Today's conservative movement is no longer as much about politics or principles as it is about money-making schemes. 
A Republican campaign speech sounds more and more like an infomercial for a brand with the product as the candidate. So why be a politician at all, you might ask.
Declaring yourself a presidential candidate gives you access to millions of dollars' worth of free media attention that can build a valuable brand. So the mere fact that Carson calls himself a presidential candidate does not prove he is actually running for president rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to build his brand.
Book deals, speaking tours, appearances on Fox News and other lucrative contracts can make even a failed candidate into a multi-millionaire. 

Say what you like about Sarah Palin, but she - a woman of high ambition but little political skill- was able to turn her dismal failure in 2008 into quite a nice nest egg. 
Think it's not possible? 
According to one source, her net worth was $1 million before the 2008 election. However, now she is reportedly worth an estimated $12 million. 
That's pretty good considering she is currently an unemployed failure who has difficulty stringing more than four words together without sounding like a patient with political Tourette's

There's more evidence that things are not what they seem in the Carson camp.
Carson is doing a lot of things that seem puzzling for a presidential campaign, but quite logical for a brand-building exercise. He is taking weeks off the campaign trail to go on a book tour. His campaign itself is structured much more like a scamming venture than a political one. An astronomical 69 percent of his fund-raising totals are spent on more fund-raising. (Bernie Sanders, by contrast, spends just 4 percent of his intake on fund-raising.)
Another bit of evidence cited in the article is the fact that Armstrong Williams, the person running Carson's campaign has the official title of "business manager" and not "campaign manager." 
A minor point, you could say, but that may also reflect a larger philosophy. It suggests, the writer says, that Carson is engaged in a for-profit venture.

The Venture and the Loophole

Carson's super PAC claimed to have raised more than $5 million during the first six months of this year. (The Federal Election Commission threw some doubt on those numbers.)
According to an NPR report, there's a loophole that might explain things.
Congress long ago passed a law limiting what candidates can do with unused campaign cash — in particular, they can't take it home with them.
But that law doesn't apply to super PACs.
This is only the second presidential contest since superPACs were created, and there is no law regarding left over money for the groups given their relative infancy.
In October, the Federal Election Commission attempted unsuccessfully to rule on how far super PACs can go in raising millions of dollars for politicians. Lawyers for Democratic candidates have advised their candidate/clients against using these fund-raising tactics since there are so many problems and questions remain unresolved.
To put it bluntly, the rules on super-PACs are presently in a mess. What happens to the super PAC funds, after a candidate drops out, is anybody's guess. In theory, it is far far better to run and lose than never to run at all.

Whether or not the super PAC theory is valid, the most likely explanation for his strange campaign behavior is that Carson isn't really running for president. He is well-aware that becoming president is impossible. He probably knows that he would make a disastrous president. It's not his goal at all. 
His true goal, what it is all about, is simply to make a lot of money.

Charming and Confident 
One objection to this theory is that Carson just doesn't seem like a shady character. He's not a fast-talking type. He's inspiring, his supporters will tell. They point to his calmness,- to the point of sedation- his confidence and an air of authority. 

However, as the book "Catch Me if You Can" by Frank W. Abagnale, a former confidence trickster, reminds us,  
Top con artists..are well dressed and exude an air of confidence and authority. They're usually as charming, courteous, and seemingly sincere as a politician seeking reelection, although they can, at times, effect the cool arrogance of a tycoon.
Often Carson appears "languid or condescendingly wise," the sign of a third-rate con-artist, according to Abagnale.

Not all of his supporters are morons, you might argue. Is it really possible that so many intelligent voters could be so wrong? that so many people could be victims of a scam and be unaware of it?
The answer is "definitely."  
This effect isn't wholly related to intelligence, but to psychology.

There tends to be a cascading effect too. That is, the more people who support the scammer, the easier it is for even more people to get sucked in.  
Honest skepticism- even when based on logic and evidence- suddenly puts the dissenter on the outside of the group. One of the most enduring traits of the conservative movement from its inception has been its demand for absolute conformity from its members. You are either on "our side" or you don't belong in the group at all. That's a powerful influence and a scammer understands it absolutely.

Offering Solutions to Desperate Folk

Another source points out, natural skepticism is a pretty weak psychological force when people become fearful, or desperate.
Once hustlers know what people want, even if it doesn’t exist, they are in a position to manipulate them. They will play on people’s desperation; unfortunately the more desperate people are, the easier they are to con.
Once the con artist knows what you want most, it is easy to coerce you into performing certain acts and behaving in specific ways using your fears against you. 

What conservative voters want, more than anything else, is a politician who isn't a politician. (Sorry, JEB.) They are searching in vain for a person who will- by some kind of miracle cure- resolve the problems of a failing party.

When looking at the Carson abnormality, the art of the distraction also plays a profound effect. The sheer number of candidates alone would provide an adequate distraction for a con artist turned scammer. There has probably never been so many bombastic or hyperbolic candidates in any election year. In addition to Trump- who himself carries some huckster traits- there's a whole troop of religious fanatics and a failed CEO all of them trying to outdo one another with outrageous remarks and lies.

Had there only been two or three normal candidates, Carson's gimmicks and lack of substance would have been much more noticeable. He would not have lasted a month and certainly would not be leading the polls.

When It All Nearly Collapsed

The whole scam nearly came apart in the last debate when Carson was asked about his very shady connection to the modern day snake oil maker, Mannatech. Carson, like any con artist, backed into a corner, had the only one option: to continue to lie. He flatly denied having any connection with the discredited multi-million dollar corporation.

That was frightening to watch since the evidence of his lie was so clear. There was evidence of his denied business relationship all over the Internet. There were videos of his for-profit speeches, there were previous statements that his own staff had made.

Consider the utterly calm and putatively genuine way in which Carson flatly denied a question at the last debate about his business relationship with Mannatech. As the writer remarks, Carson's "unflinching dishonesty has a chilling quality."

Following this close-call, Carson like the other candidates questioned the value of the debates.
"Debates are supposed to be established to help the people get to know the candidates. What it has become, is a 'gotcha' — that's silly and that's not really helpful for anybody."
In this case, the term "gotcha" really just means the exposure of his fraud. The last thing Carson wants is for voters to know the candidate. Thankfully for him, exposure doesn't necessarily mean the game is over when the marks are willing to put their faith over the facts.


As "a precursor to his current enterprise," Carson's Mannatech scam mainly targeted Christian customers and that's true also in his campaign. In an effort, to distance himself from his closest front runner, Donald Trump, Carson has had no hesitation about using his faith to cover for his lack of qualifications. Faith and faith alone is all that is needed, he seems to say.

In Denver, the other day, the candidate played up to the Christian phobia of rampant secularism. Addressing an audience of  more than 1,500 people at Colorado Christian University, Carson told them to "stop listening to secular progressives who are trying to kick God out of our country."
One conservative supporter actually described Carson as "Christ-like."  

Coincidentally, Deborah Cooper, writer of the book "The Black Church - Where Women Pray and Men Prey"
Church members and their churches have been targeted for fleecing for hundreds of millions of dollars by con artists blindly accepted to be Christ-like.
Dr. Carson is simply taking his scam to a wider stage and so far it is working out pretty well. But sooner or later, somebody's going to wake up and the longer the Republican establishment allows this dangerous charade to continue, the angrier the conservatives will be when it inevitably crashes. 

When voters finally realized that they have been scammed, come November 2016, they will crucify what remains of the Grand Old Party.

Yesterday Carson addressed charges that he lied in his book-  about applying or being offered a "full scholarship" to West Point. It was something he had repeated often on the campaign trail. That's logical since West Point does not offer "full scholarships." Carson accused those who questioned the legitimacy of his story

Irony alert. Carson claimed the allegations of his lying was "all lies." 
"It's a bunch of lies. That's what it is. A bunch of lies, attempting to say that I'm lying about my history. I think it's pathetic."
It's not at all unusual for a habitual liar to accuse others of lying as a means of self-defense.

He added that challenging his dubious stories will only boost his standing in the GOP polls and only make him more popular. 
Sadly for the Republican party, that's probably an accurate observation. Shifting to victimhood mode has proved to be quite effective in campaigns when a candidate is challenged with the truth.