Ben Carson's hot mess of a campaign: A predictably dysfunctional mish-mash of fire-breathing rhetoric and insane policy ideas

What happens when an overnight conservative celebrity runs for the nation's top job? Take a guess

Published June 11, 2015 5:15PM (EDT)

  (Jeffery Malet,
(Jeffery Malet,

Ben Carson’s presidential campaign continues to flawlessly meet expectations, which is to say that it is a fiery catastrophe of failure, greed, and embarrassment. There was really no other way this situation could play out. Carson’s political celebrity was never rooted in anything meaningful – conservatives fell in love with him because he insults President Obama and refuses to be “politically correct.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board encouraged Carson to run for the White House for no other reason than his willingness to say things that are “un-PC.” And, not surprisingly, Carson’s attempt to transform this crude, superficial appeal into an actual political movement has been disastrous.

Carson has officially been in the 2016 race for just over a month, and already his candidacy is falling apart. The Washington Post reported last week that several top staffers have already resigned from the campaign, which “has been marked by signs of dysfunction and amateurism.” A big part of that dysfunction seems to be that Carson’s political orbit is populated by opportunists who are at least as interested in cashing in on the Carson boomlet as they are in electing him president. Instead of working in sync, Carson’s aides and supporters fighting with each other with as they work to grab as much cash as they can:

Two independent super PACs designed to help Carson are instead competing directly with Carson’s campaign for donations and volunteers, while campaign chairman Terry Giles resigned last month with the intention of forming a third super PAC.

Giles said he intends to try to persuade the other two super PACs, called Run Ben Run and One Vote, to cease operations so that all outside efforts can be coordinated through the new group. But with Carson’s brand a galvanizing force on the right, there are potentially millions of dollars to be raised off his name, and the other super PACs are said to be reluctant to shut down.

As for Carson himself, he’s apparently none too interested in the toxic internal fights that are sabotaging his campaign apparatus. "Carson occasionally drops by his Alexandria campaign headquarters," the Post noted, "but his main interaction with staffers is once a week, at 10 a.m. on Sundays, when he participates in a conference call." He’d rather be out on the trail, talking to voters, and proposing bad, confusing policy ideas that aren’t really tethered to any sort of ideology, or even to common sense. Yesterday, according to MSNBC, Carson floated the idea of a “covert division” of government employees that would “monitor what government people do” and make sure they’re doing their jobs, or something.

It’s an idea that’s rooted in a conservative caricature of government employees as parasitic loafers who just sit in their cubicles all day laughing as they count the money they’re stealing from hardworking taxpayers who have real jobs. If you’re a conservative who has a problem with the size and complexity of the federal government, I’m not sure why you’d support an expansion of the federal workforce (and an extra layer of bureaucracy) as a means to fix it. A spokesman for Carson tried to clarify what he meant: “Covert division? More like Secret Shopper, a quality control strategy used worldwide to improve customer service and customer care.” It’s not immediately apparent how a strategy used to improve customer service would apply to people in white-collar jobs, but whatever. It’s an idea.

But again, this idea isn’t meant to conform to ideology and it’s not intended as a serious policy proposal – it’s just another of the crude appeals to right-wing resentment that seems to be Carson’s sole political talent.

The question that arises from all this dysfunction and nonsense is: how long can he keep this up? Right now he’s pulling decent crowds at Iowa events and his national poll numbers are, for the moment, inching upwards. But that won't last with a shambolic campaign apparatus and a platform based entirely on generating outrage. Carson’s approach to campaigning doesn’t seem to diverge too significantly to his life as a Fox News pundit: just go out there and be “un-PC” and something something congratulations President-Elect Carson.

By Simon Maloy

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2016 Elections Ben Carson Big Government Conservatives Political Campaigns Political Correctness