On Ben Carson’s Popularity

Presidential Candidate Ben Carson

 Note: This post is by Guest Author Eric O.

On the Surface

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is now second in the GOP. This is surprising because his campaign strategy revolves around telling his personal story (an impoverished youth turned brain surgeon) and pointing out that he is an outsider in Washington. His dramatic rise is thanks to the frustration of Republican voters and their appreciation of his sincerity.

Carson’s Past

Ben Carson was born to a single mother in Detroit, went to Yale, and at 33 became the chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. There, he led the first successful operation to separate twins conjoined at the head. In 2013 Carson became a Republican hero by denouncing Obama’s government, and thus jumped into the GOP field.

Carson’s Appeal

Carson’s positions aren’t anything special for a Republican. He’s against abortion, gun control, and gay marriage; the one issue where he stands out among the field is a guest worker program for immigrants.

Carson’s appeal is his personal story: Americans cherish the idea of a man coming from nothing and seizing on the American dream. This is similar to the narrative spun by Barack Obama in 2008, a narrative that captivated the country.

And his popularity is similar to Trump’s in that both of them have seized upon frustration with career politicians. Carson has repeatedly pointed out that he’s never held elected office. But, unlike Trump, Carson doesn’t bully or belittle his opponents; rather, he uses soft tones that carry his message to open ears across the country.