By all accounts, Ben Carson wowed them at the CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, this past weekend in Washington.
The retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon rallied the troops with a fiery speech and he came in third place in the CPAC straw poll behind Senators Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Ted Cruz (R- Texas), a strong showing.
Might Dr. Carson be the conservative movement's political reincarnation of Herman Cain? It certainly looks that way.
I should begin by saying I liked Herman Cain when he ran for president. Although I did not agree much with what he had to say, he was a showman, with an affable personality. If nothing else, he was entertaining, with his "9-9-9" tax plan, and his ability to put a smiley face on the most abhorrent Tea Party policies imaginable. And in the end, he had about as much of a chance of winning a ticket to the White House as one of those pizzas he used to sell, and we all knew it.
Nevertheless, the party faithful like to keep at least a few articulate black folks around, individuals who position themselves as the living embodiment of Horatio Alger up-from-your-bootstraps folklore, and cheerleaders for the government's retreat from any positive role in advancing society, in helping the vulnerable, and promoting the common good. After all, they did it all by themselves, they made it up the ladder, so why can't you (you meaning government-dependent black people)?
In the end, Cain and others of his ilk were never really intended to attract more African-Americans to the conservative fold, as their primary purpose is to validate bad policies in the eyes of those who already subscribe to those policies. Perhaps they will even attract a few unsuspecting moderates and swing voters who want to be reassured the GOP is a safe place.
Herman Cain provided the entertainment the last presidential election cycle, but Ben Carson is a step above. As an acclaimed neurosurgeon and pioneer who was the first to separate conjoined twins joined at the head, Dr. Carson is no joke. Back in my younger days I remember reading about Dr. Carson with a sense of pride. From a career standpoint, he is the real deal, which is precisely why he ought to know better. When you're born and raised in Detroit and you're sent to Yale, you have an obligation to know better.
Dr. Carson is not necessarily the most compelling or gifted speaker, but he comes off as far more substantive than Cain, which is why he will likely get some mileage in 2016. In his 20-minute speech, he railed against political correctness and the liberal media, and claimed that a number of his past statements had been distorted. Carson referred to America as "a land of dreams," as if the U.S. is some type of Disneyland where magical things happen. He proclaimed marriage is between a man and a woman, adding that "Of course gay people should have the same rights as everyone else. But they don't get extra rights," which drew enthusiastic applause from the CPAC crowd. Carson provided the standard Tea Party fare, reiterating his comparison of homosexuality to bestiality, and prior remarks that Obamacare is the worst thing to happen since slavery.
"I miss what medicine used to be," Carson lamented."'I don't miss what it has become."
Dr. Carson said that people on the left "repeat these lies over and over again because they cannot argue the actual facts." And he called for unity among conservatives, urging the crowd to vote Republican even if their candidate fails to win a primary.
A black doctor who is against people having medical care, and tries to make intolerant, discriminatory policies acceptable by putting a black face on them? Dr. Ben Carson is made to order. A political action committee to draft him for president has raised $2.8 million in six months. Like Herman Cain, he may be unelectable, but Dr. Carson could make the 2016 primaries all the more interesting.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove