Carson’s character appeals to the American people
The Republican presidential race this year has been characterized as the “Year of the Outsider.” Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson have been leading the race in the polls over the last few weeks far ahead of more traditional career politicians. While Trump has steadily maintained the lead, lately Carson has risen in popularity.
Raised in a poor, single-parent household in Detroit, Michigan, Carson’s success was far from predetermined. He developed a love of reading, which helped to improve his grades and eventually led him to Yale University and the University of Michigan School of Medicine. He has received numerous awards for his work as a physician but has had no political experience whatsoever.
This lack of political experience, though, is likely contributing to his nationwide popularity, according to Michael Zuckert, Professor of Political Science.
“I see Trump and Carson not only, as has been frequently commented, to be non-politicians in the ordinary sense and to derive much of their appeal from that fact, but I see them as exercising a complementary appeal to voters interested in avoiding a ‘politician as usual,’” he told the Rover.
Zuckert argued that the recent leadership failures in the U.S. government have led many Americans to distrust politicians in general and look elsewhere for a solution.
“A common theme is that their supporters tend to see America as having headed in the wrong direction recently and as having ‘failed’ in important ways over the past several administrations,” he said.
“It is easy to see why this attitude would be rather widespread: in foreign affairs we have invested much in mid-east wars with very little positive to show for it. At home we had the economic meltdown of the last moments of the Bush administration, lasting well into the Obama administration, and the slow and unevenly felt recovery from that recession,” Zuckert explained.
Carson’s own slogan, “Heal. Inspire. Revive.,” suggests that he aims to portray himself as a unique solution to a broken system. Carson, along with Trump, embodies a type of success that is admired by the American people as much as—or perhaps even more than—a thorough knowledge of politics.
“So far as voters are looking for signs of intelligence and capacity to lead, the voters see their outside careers as sufficient proof the candidates have enough of what it takes,” Zuckert claimed.
“As character candidates the two share one other very important thing in common,” he continued. “They are seen as ‘straight talkers.’ They are not hostage to dogmas perceived to be ‘politically correct.’ Ordinary politicians, precisely because they are interested above all in winning office, are prone to cave in to PC dogma.”
Perhaps his character is what sets Carson apart the most. Though he is much more soft-spoken than his outsider counterpart, Carson has still managed to instill confidence in the American people as a result of his values.
“He has a good will and good values; he means well and has no selfish motives or unsavory egoism such as Trump displays. He will always aim to do the right thing and that is what we really need, think his supporters,” Zuckert said. “Again, they are not particularly bothered by his lack of any experience of the sort that political leadership requires (even Trump has more of that) nor by his rudimentary (to be generous) knowledge of the world and of policy.”
While many of the previous Republican debates have focused primarily on economic issues, Carson typically references social issues. Throughout the race, he has been known for his Christian faith and the high place he believes faith should hold in society.
“His appeal is especially strong among evangelical voters, who agree in placing much emphasis on character, values, and religious claims such as he makes for himself. Thus his appeal is in part that he shares the ‘values’ of evangelical voters—oriented toward the Bible, strongly pro-life, etc.,” Zuckert concluded.
Other candidates who focus on these values have not been as popular as Carson. Zuckert attributes this to Carson’s character coupled with his values.
In the most recent polls, Carson has been second behind Trump, but with the race still in its beginning stages, these numbers are likely to fluctuate. The Republican candidates once again face off in a debate hosted by CNN in Las Vegas on Tuesday, December 15 at 9 p.m.
Hailey Vrdolyak is a senior political science and theology major. She is on a quest to win a Christmas-cookie-eating contest. To offer tips, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.