Questions? +1 (202) 335-3939 Login
Trusted News Since 1995
A service for political professionals · Sunday, July 12, 2020 · 521,506,201 Articles · 3+ Million Readers

Carson's Surging Among Radicals Who Want to Dismantle Government, Not Run It

October 27, 2015

By Joe Rothstein

A number of polls in recent days have Ben Carson surging to the lead among caucus going Iowa Republicans. The latest poll shows him trumping Trump 32-18. All of which led Trump to declare at a rally over the weekend, “I don’t know what the hell is going on there. I don’t get it.”

A lot of people don’t get it. Of all the Republican candidates for President, Ben Carson is the most soft-spoken, least bombastic, and the least politically experienced. Furthermore, although most media is too politically correct to point this out, Carson happens to be black in a party not lately known for its inclusiveness and diversity. So, what the hell IS going on?

It’s not so complicated. Carson is telling the Republican base in Iowa what it wants to hear. And, since he’s never held public office, he isn’t burdened with having to explain why he didn’t do what he promised in the last election campaign.

Over the past few decades the radical extremists on talk radio have created a substantial Republican electorate that demands radical extremism. Rather than pushing back, mainstream Republican candidates and office-holders have been feeding this angry beast with expectations impossible to meet. Now, in frustration, the beast has turned on its makers.

A majority of Americans would hardly agree with Carson’s view that the Affordable Care Act is the worst thing since slavery. But 81% of the Republicans polled find that statement “attractive.” Most Americans would not agree with Carson’s view that there might not have been a Holocaust if the Jews had kept their weapons, an NRA-inspired claim that’s totally debunked by history. Yet 77% of Carson’s supporters agree with it.

Two-thirds of Trump’s supporters believe President Obama is a Muslim. Nearly as many, 63%, want to amend the Constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship.

It’s highly relevant that of all the candidates in the Republican race, Carson is the most popular, with a 69/14 favorbility rating. Not only that, he’s the most frequent second choice among Republicans supporting other candidates. So Carson isn’t just out in lala land as an anomaly. He’s right there in what passes for mainstream thinking among Republican voters. Supporters of John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio don’t question President Obama’s U.S. birth credentials. That puts them all in the minority. THEY are the current GOP fringe, since polls show all of these candidates are in single digits.

The answer to “what the hell is going on” doesn’t rest with Carson or Trump as individuals. Rather, it’s with the Republican voting base which over the years has become disconnected with what most Americans consider mainstream reality. According to Gallup, ten years ago a third of all voters identified themselves as Republicans. Gallup’s latest polling has the number now down at 25%. On a percentage basis, the GOP has lost 20-25% of its base during the last decade. What’s left is the hard core radical right.

How hard core? Hard core enough to devour the leaders who stonewalled much of the Obama agenda for six years. Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy gave no quarter on the stimulus bill that was desperately needed to pull the country out of the recession. Boehner has allowed the House to vote nearly 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Cantor and McCarthy together raised more money than anyone else to help elect the current class of right wing Republican members. None of this has been enough for the radical right.

Now they even have their guns trained on Paul Ryan, who, as head of the Ways and Means Committee, has been pumping out long range budget plans that include cutbacks in Social Security, conversion of Medicare into a voucher program, an end the capital gains tax and progressive taxation generally. Ryan’s latest budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office, over the years would reduce money available for nearly everything except the military.

The radical conversion of the Republican Party has been a long term project, abetted by the very leaders who are being dethroned now. They’ve helped create a political constituency that not only demands fealty to their causes but success in passing that agenda. Any less is heresy.

So why is Carson now so popular among the Republican base. Because he seems to be the most authentic advocate for that agenda. The fact that he has no governmental experience isn’t an issue because neither Carson nor the radicals see little use for government. He would be there to dismantle it, not to manage it.

The radical right has peered into its mirror and the image coming back currently looks more like Ben Carson than any other choice. It’s an image that’s unhinging the Republican leadership. If responsible Republicans don’t soon get control of the dogs they’ve let loose, it could very well unhinge America.

(Joe Rothstein can be contacted at

Joe Rothstein is editor of U.S. Politics Today. His career in politics spans 35 years, as a strategist and media producer in more than 200 campaigns for political office and for many political causes. He was a pioneer in professional political consulting and one of the founding members of the American Association of Political Consultants. During his career Mr. Rothstein has served as editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anchorage Daily News and adjunct professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. He has a master's degree in journalism from UCLA.