A new potential contender for the presidential race for 2016 took the stage at CPAC. His name is Ben Carson, a brain surgeon and American success story, carrying a message that wows the GOP base while intriguing swing voters, showcasing a broad-based appeal that could make him a force to be reckoned with.
Dr. Carson is a black American raised by a single mom in the inner city. In fifth grade his mother made this frustrated child turn off the TV and start reading, encouraging him with daily attention to make something of himself. Years later this Ivy League-educated neurosurgeon received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush for his groundbreaking medical work. Now he is making his debut on the national stage.
Carson gave a speech covering the entire range of public-policy issues that hit upon all three legs of the Reagan conservative coalition: economic, social, and national security. Although it was a thought-leader speech, Carson also teased the crowd that he might launch a presidential campaign on these issues, saying, “Let’s say you magically put me in the White House.”
Carson spoke against racial politics, explaining that as a brain surgeon when he pulls back the skin on someone’s skull to operate that you understand your skin is just the cover on your body; it has nothing to do with who you are as a person.
The good doctor naturally weighed in on healthcare, making a well-reasoned case against Obamacare. His prescription for patient-centered healthcare reform involved HSAs (Healthcare Savings Accounts) for ordinary expenses, along with catastrophic insurance to cover major unexpected costs and bridge insurance to help out-of-pocket expenses.
He also warned how government healthcare amounts to government control, because medicine makes the difference between life and death. “If the government can control that, they can control just about everything.”
Another natural for Carson is education, having climbed from the bottom of the economic ladder to the top by obtaining a great education. He assaulted Obama’s government-centered unionized approach, emphasizing personal choice and competition.
On these issues he added what became a consistent theme through his speech. For each such issue, “It’s not the government’s responsibility; it’s our responsibility as citizens.”
But then he expanded into broader economic issues, brushing aside those who would question his credentials, saying these issues are more matters of common sense than specialized training. “It’s not brain surgery,” he quipped.
One issue of obvious interest to Carson that would be prominent in a presidential campaign is a flat tax. Half the people in the country don’t pay any income taxes, so he reasoned they don’t have “any skin the game”. If everyone has an equal share proportional to their income, then if politicians want to raise taxes they have to raise them on everyone, and pay a political price unless they could give a good reason for their vote.
Then he moved on to social issues. Carson took the unusual step of going beyond specific issues like abortion and gay marriage. He declared, “We have to resist this war on God.”
Carson reminded the crowd that he first came to the public’s attention at the National Prayer Breakfast where he called out President Obama with the president seated only feet away. Media commentators criticized him for tying public-policy issues to biblical principles and making that a basis to oppose the president’s agenda.
It’s a sad commentary on society when you can be faulted for invoking biblical principles at a prayer breakfast, Carson commented. Then he voiced the growing frustrations of millions of Christians, remarking, “People don’t want to talk about God and don’t you dare mention Jesus Christ.”
And so Carson tied together all three types of conservatives at CPAC 2013. Whether he runs for president or not, Dr. Ben Carson is a new face and voice for American conservatives, and in a position to shape the public debate as conservatives make the case to reject President Obama’s government-centered society in favor of the limited government set forth in the U.S. Constitution.
Breitbart News legal columnist Ken Klukowski is the national bestselling author of Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America.