(The Root) — If William F. Buckley Jr.’s definition of a conservative was someone who “stands athwart history yelling, ‘Stop’,” maybe Dr. Ben Carson’s idea of conservatism is standing athwart the present saying “slavery” as many times as he can.
And if so, it’s a good way to grab headlines for himself. But it’s also a pretty good way to make sure that voters of color continue to shun the GOP.
Because when Carson riffs — as he did Friday in Washington, D.C., at the Values Voter Summit — that Obamacare is “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” he’s not only guilty of the worst kind of political hyperbole; he’s also saying to minority voters that it’s not quite time yet to reconsider the Republican Party.
Even as the party tries, in theory, to convince those same voters that it wants to earn their votes.
So, if they’re serious about putting a dent in the 93 percent of black, 71 percent of Latino and 73 percent of Asian-American votes that went to President Barack Obama and Democrats in the last election cycle, Republicans ought to be righteously indignant at Carson’s willingness to resort to such a worn-out trope just to throw out an easy applause line to an apparently receptive hard-right audience to whom he’s become a hero.
It’s not just that Carson’s slavery claim is way off historically — Jim Crow, the Zoot Suit riots and the wartime internment of Japanese Americans immediately come to mind as episodes far worse than Obamacare — but also that he’ll nonchalantly compare lifelong forced, unpaid manual labor to a government-mandated requirement that citizens carry health insurance.
The implication is an affront to those who were slaves, and it weakens the case that Carson and other Obamacare opponents might otherwise make.
After all, there’s no guarantee that in the long run, the Affordable Care Act will be the answer that solves the nation’s health care issues. But it’s almost certain that as long as political figures like Carson resort to cheap shots instead of reasonable arguments, they’re going to repel more people than they attract to their political point of view.
And, clearly, he’s capable of making a better argument.