Ben Carson: America's "next black hope"?

Author:Goffe, Leslie Gordon
Position:Diaspora: USA

African-Americans traditionally vote for the Democratic Party. 95% of black voters backed Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. However, occasionally black conservative candidates for the rival Republican Party emerge. Leslie Gordon Goffe assesses the chances of one such "great black hope", Dr Ben Carson.

Last month, Dr Ben Carson became the first high-profile Republican to form a presidential exploratory committee, usually the final step before declaring an actual run for President of the United States. Carson, a 63-year-old, Detroit, Michigan-born retired paediatric neurosurgeon, came fourth in a recent McClatchy-Marist poll of possible Republican primary candidates, with 9% of the vote. Jeb Bush, the younger brother of former President George W. Bush, son of former President George H.W. Bush and grandson of Senator Prescott Bush, led the pack with 19%.

But there's no guarantee Carson will run. So, to try to convince him, influential conservatives have begun a "Draft Ben Carson" campaign, whose slogan is "Run Ben, Run".

Although beloved by the right wing of the Republican Party, which calls him, admiringly, the "anti-Obama", Carson is unlikely to carry many black votes. Most African-Americans have little time for his brand of highly conservative politics, which seeks to roll back welfare systems, women's rights, gay rights and plays down racial inequalities in America.

Being black and progressive, Barack Obama won black voters in record numbers in his 2008 and 2012 presidential election campaigns. But being black and reactionary will not win Carson many black votes. And Carson has said some very reactionary things indeed. He said African-Americans who do not succeed have only themselves to blame and that white racism is exaggerated.

If he does run, he will try to convince African-Americans that life got worse for them under Obama. Carson argues that "race relations" have degenerated, and average African-American income has fallen under the Democratic Party president.

Carson's politics and viewpoints won't find much accord among African-Americans. He'll find plenty of support, though, from white conservatives. Carson says what some of them dare not say, and will add a little colour to the lily-white ranks of the Republican Party.

The Republican Party was not always this way. It was once the favoured party of African-Americans. Freed by Republican President Abraham Lincoln, they gave their support to the party as soon as they were...

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