Non-audioPolitics

I’m all in for Ben Carson this week  

Underlying Carson’s support is a clearly underestimated contempt many, if not most, Americans have for the whole population of politics.

Ben Carson doesn’t have the experience, knowledge base, temperament or anything else that could possibly make him a prudent, rational choice to be president. Duh.

There’s plenty of evidence that Carson is a real flake with some real twilight zone views.

Yet he has been the favorite of a goodly chunk of Republicans for months, and he is now at the top of some polls.

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out why. While some Republicans must actually believe in the guy, most are so repulsed by standard-issue politicians they prefer anyone who isn’t one. Period. It doesn’t much matter who it is.

Supporting Carson, and Trump, too, I suppose, is a relatively harmless form of political vandalism. It is as close to heckling the whole crowd of politician weasels as a voter can get. Sure, it’s an adolescent impulse. It’s like piercing your civic nostril. Neither of these characters is going to win in the end, so why not rage when it can at least get some attention? Maybe it’s – air quotes – immature. But it’s honest and cathartic.

So count me in! I’m for Ben Carson to be the GOP nominee.

Taking this position means renouncing much, but not all, of the political commentary I have written over many years. I don’t think either of my regular readers will mind though.

It is humiliating to admit, but I have clearly underestimated the pure contempt many, if not most, Americans have for the whole population of politics.

That includes not just the candidates and office holders, but also their surrogates and employees, the talking heads, the press corps, the Internet trolls, the single-issue sanctity mongers, the radio jocks, the lobbyists, the celebrities with their narcissistic pseudo-causes and the jumbo donors.

I’m serious. I have reported on and studied public attitudes on civic life off and on since 1985, consistently for the past 10 years. I have written ad nauseum about our growing alienation from politics and public institutions and wrote a little-noticed book that tried to explain “why we hate us.”

Still, my observations and diagnoses were too tame, too analytic and too uptight. My vision was blinkered in ways I think are common to journalists, political scientists and others who aspire to detached, evidence-based methods.

Covering Congress every day from the end of 1988 to the beginning of 1993 and again for much of the Clinton impeachment year, educated but encumbered me. I proudly helped expose some mini-scandals, dirty deals and corrupt practices.

Still, I relentlessly defended members when most all of my friends and relatives called them a bunch of crooks. Some were. But others were among the most impressive people I’ve ever gotten to know.

If you’re old enough to recall, or curious enough to Google, my short list includes: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, George Mitchell, Warren Rudman, Bob Dole, Lee Hamilton, John McCain, Joe Biden, William Cohen, Tom Foley, Sam Nunn, Howell Heflin, Lloyd Bentsen, Henry Waxman, John Lewis, Leon Panetta, Richard Gephardt, Jack Kemp, Bill Bradley and John Danforth.

I don’t know of anyone who argues that today’s Congress matches up or that the perverted campaign and election funding process will ever attract the proverbial best and brightest until it is reformed. But I retained a naïve faith that an anointed few could dominate the annoying many. Wrong.

Genetic and newsroom crustiness aside, I’m covertly idealistic about politics. I believe that Barack Obama has been an extraordinary, steady, dignified leader under politically impossible conditions.

But understanding the pressures and obstacles politicians endure, maybe I’ve been too forgiving. Like most, I have come to think most politicians are the ultimate phonies. But I’ve misjudged how deep and rancid the contempt runs.

People always feel their times are the worst of times and their leaders seem puny next to the giants of yesteryear. I’ve been inclined to believe that we also exaggerate our problems, downplay our blessings and complain too much.

This may be true, but it’s not as important as I thought. Nuclear annihilation, ecological catastrophe and the mere existence of 7 billion people on the planet aren’t trivial threats.

There is nearly universal conviction that our leaders, institutions and politics as usual aren’t up to the job and that is perfectly rational. I have overestimated the electorate’s capacity for apathy and resignation.

I never imagined the Trump-Carson craze would last this long. It is unimaginable to many and delightful to many others.

Oprah Winfrey, Jon Stewart, Deepak Chopra: I suspect that if there were a Carson or Trump, a real oddball, non-politician, in the Democratic field, he or she would be way ahead in the polls today. Understandably.

So given the current crop, my past sins of punditry and the fun of a zany rebellion that’s actually getting attention – I’m all in for Ben Carson.

Unless Kim Kardashian decides to run.

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