Ben Carson: candidate profile

By Dan Cravens

Reader’s Note:  This one in a series of articles on the major Republican candidates for the GOP Nomination for president.  The purpose of these articles is to educate voters about the candidates before the March 8 Idaho Republican Presidential Primary.

One of the early leaders in the chase for the Republican nomination for president was Ben Carson. Carson’s campaign has faced challenges in recent weeks due to staffing changes, and reportedly, internal conflict within the campaign.

Carson’s campaign began to gain traction even before he entered the race. In possibly a somewhat orchestrated effort, a groundswell of individuals from all walks of life, and across the nation, called on Carson, who had previously never held or run for public office, to seek the presidency. By the time Carson announced his candidacy, the Draft Carson Committee has raised over $13 million in donations.

In order to fully understand Carson’s appeal, one must hear his personal story of growing up poor and fatherless in Detroit. 

Carson’s mother, the former Sonya Copeland, married his father when she was only 13 years of age. Carson’s father was a former minister and Cadillac factory worker from the rural South. 

Carson’s father, Robert, despite being a minister, had a dual life that was unknown to Sonya at the time of their marriage.  Robert had a second family and wife. Eventually, Carson’s father abandoned him and his mother in favor of his first family.

Carson’s mother struggled due to her lack of education and single-parent obligations. She worked multiple jobs as a domestic servant while he was growing up. The family sometimes relied on food stamps to help make ends meet. 

Carson’s mother played a vital role in his development.  Realizing her son was failing in school, and struggling with a temper that could lead him to a life of violence and crime, she prayed for guidance. Carson’s grades were so poor he was sometimes referred to as the “dumbest kid in fifth grade.”  His temper was so bad that he even tried to hit his mother with a hammer over a dispute about clothing.

Carson’s mother, who herself never finished high school, responded to his behavior and academic performance in a unique way.  Sonya worked for some of the most successful business leaders in Detroit.  She noticed their habits and attempted to develop the same in her son Ben.  In order to accomplish this task, she limited Ben’s television watching to just two selected programs a week, and assigned him to read two books a week. She also instilled in her son the belief that he could do anything, despite poverty, disadvantage, and race, if he just worked hard.

These simple but important lessons took hold in Ben. Ben graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale University, and received a medical degree from the University of Michigan. After medical school he completed a residency in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

In 1984, after a year of working for a hospital in Perth, Australia, Carson returned to Johns Hopkins, where he became the director of Pediatric Neurosurgery. He led several teams of doctors who performed separation surgeries on conjoined twins. Some of these high-risk surgeries were successful and others were not. Additionally, Carson developed a hemispherectomy procedure that helped control brain seizures in the patients treated. Carson retired from surgery in 2013.

In addition to his medical career, Carson is also an author.  He has written six best-selling books, including his 1992 autobiography.  He also has been a columnist for the Washington Times and a contributor to Fox News.

Carson’s political views fall within the mainstream of the conservative movement. Carson is strongly opposed to abortion in almost all circumstances, except in cases to save the life of the mother.  He is also strongly opposes federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

With regard to spending and revenue, Carson supports a flat tax plan, rather than the current income tax system. He also suggested that income taxation should be about 10 percent, the same as a traditional tithe to a church. He also supports a luxury tax on certain high-ticket items, and the elimination of many deductions and loopholes. Carson also supports a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In order to help stabilize Social Security, he supports raising the retirement age.

Carson takes a traditional stance on marriage. He opposes same-sex marriage. 

On immigration, he believes that illegal aliens should be able to register as guest workers, and would provide those individuals a pathway to permanent residency status.

Despite a very compelling personal story, Carson is running fourth in most polls. His campaign has been sinking in the polls over the past few weeks. Without a strong and surprising showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, his campaign may lack the inertia to move forward.

Regardless of how he fares in the primaries, Ben Carson is an American success story.

Dan Cravens is the chairman of the Bingham County Republican Central Committee. He and wife Jill and family live in Blackfoot.