Nearly 1,600 people packed the massive new Augusta Convention Center hall – so much so that, when asked days before the dinner if they could handle any more interest from the public, organizers said they were full.
Then, when Dr. Ben Carson took the podium at Tuesday night’s Augusta Care Pregnancy Center banquet, attendees couldn’t wait to stand and applaud. Then they gave him a standing “O” when he was done.
Augusta may have seen – and felt – the early stages of a major presidential campaign this week.
What was hanging in the air at the event was the fog of dread conservatives see for America. The Pledge of Allegiance – the other thing participants eagerly stood for – had the faint echo of a eulogy.
Ben Carson was a ray of light.
He talked about America’s founding values, about the admiration Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville showed for the new nation after studying its early 1800s incarnation. He lamented the woeful civic ignorance evident today, and the poor state of American education. He warned that government-run health care is the pathway to control of a people.
And he recounted how he rose from poverty in a single-parent home through the single-mindedness of an engaged and motivating mother – who required him to turn off the TV and read two books a week and write reviews on them.
In describing his past and fretting for our future, the renowned neurosurgeon sounded very much like a man who is contemplating a run for the presidency. The audience left no doubt their verdict on the matter.
Indeed, the event was a dramatic reminder that conservatives who fear for this country’s financial and moral condition and trajectory are clearly starving for leadership.
Is he the guy?
In our view, he could be. He’s got the right stuff, only more so than most: He’s obviously brilliant and well-schooled, dedicated to constitutional principles, focused on reviving education and devoted to individual liberty. As a bonus, he may be the most unflappable man ever to seek the presidency in the modern age.
But therein lies the rub.
A Ben Carson candidacy would test this country in three ways:
• He’s an African-American conservative, and in some circles that means he’s shredded his African-American Express card. Somehow the left, and the media, have equated African-Americanism with liberalism, which is just silly. Fact is, we would argue that liberalism is one of the worst things that ever happened to the African-American community.
• He’s astoundingly soft-spoken. He smacks of the kind of thoughtful, erudite leaders you sometimes see in other countries, but who might never ascend in a nation with the kind of bare-knuckled, vituperative politics America is in the process of getting trademarked. And how would the “get-in-there-and-fight” media handle such a civil guy?
• He wants to have an intellectual discussion on the issues, not a raised-voices argument springing from emotion. Voters today should ask ourselves: Do we want to just feel good, knowing that our favorite candidate is going to give what-for to the opposition? Or would we prefer to get ahead, individually and collectively, through an urbane and cultured contest of ideas?
We’re skeptical of the media’s and the political class’ ability and willingness to abide a man of such class and dignity in their midst.
But Ben Carson has proved plenty of others wrong.