As anticipated, we watched the famed Dr. Ben Carson, Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, attempt to transform his “Gifted Hands” magic into a hocus-pocus parlor trick at the recent Conservative Action Political Committee (CPAC) meeting at National Harbor.
“Let’s say you magically put me in the White House,” said the charming doctor, curiously waving his fingers in the air like some vaudeville huckster during his 22-minute much-touted speech, portions of which were broadcast live on Fox News.
Let’s say that unlikely campaign feat would take some serious Black Magic, gullah-geechee voodoo and a whole lot of Medicine Man mojo to accomplish. Even the great magicians like Houdini and David Copperfield would be put to their ultimate challenges to turn this great physician into a winning politician.
Well, he did, coyly announce his “retirement” from medicine later this year. Carson and I haven’t been able to talk yet.
Still, it’s also doubtful that $10 million bucks that Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus pledged this week to throw at minority communities and their handpicked African American and Latino surrogates will pull off that magic trick either.
Preibus’ idea was to order a three-month listening tour by GOP leaders which produced a 100-page report, the “Growth and Opportunity” project with hundreds of items to increase the party’s outreach efforts, particularly with minorities. It includes hiring national political directors for Hispanics, Asian-Pacific and African Americans. It includes a pilot project to identify supporters during the 2013 mayoral races in urban areas.
What seems lost on the GOP is that they can’t magically market their way out of this mess. Survey respondents reportedly said the GOP was “the party of the rich.” Hard image to shake, especially considering the list of rising GOP stars.
So the party may need to rethink its policies, trimming the anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-poor, anti-all-things-Obama rhetoric. Find real solutions to poverty engulfing the increasing ranks of the working poor.
They can’t just throw money at “urban” communities. They can’t just anoint any African American or Latino or Asian who is able to read or to recite like a robot a string of sour sentences from the Republican play book and expect to pull a political rabbit out of the hat.
The GOP doesn’t need $10 million tricks and gimmicks and ads to get their “message” to resonate. Their “message,” if it is that of the CPAC crowd, is loud and clear and it’s not inclusive or tolerant or “in touch,” as former GOP chair Michael Steele told the AFRO last week.
So out of touch, in fact, that at one point during CPAC, a young Republican questioned aloud, “why can’t we just have segregation?” This after Scott Terry, 30, of North Carolina, who actually bemoaned the loss of white power, started a shouting match by shamelessly stating that slavery was a good thing because slave masters provided food, shelter and clothing.
Ironically, this verbal fracas caught on camera and spread across the Internet like wildfire occurred during a panel titled “Trump the Race Card,” lead by K. Carl Smith, of Birmingham, and leader of the Frederick Douglass Republicans.
Even former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tried to tell the CPAC faithful that they have to grow and adapt their old line policies, such as those on comprehensive immigration reform, if they are to remain a viable political party. The reception to him was lukewarm. Unlike Dr. Carson who again used his platform to berate President Obama’s tax and health care policies to rousing applause.
There’s been a cautionary note, however, sounded by conservative columnist Cal Thomas who has written that Dr. Carson should “stop taking victory laps” and apologize to President Obama for the remarks the doctor made during the National Prayer Breakfast in February that put him in such high-flying favor with right-wingers like CPAC in the first place.
We surely haven’t seen the last of Dr. Carson, who had accomplished some great feats, and this is not the last time he’ll be used, obviously voluntarily, by misguided party leaders who promote his political novice because he speaks magic to their ears.
“When did we reach a point when you have to have a certain philosophy because of the color of your skin?” asked Dr. Carson at the CPAC podium, raising his hands if to unconsciously signal that he really does not have any magical answers or tricks up his selves.
But, as a student in my urban studies class said, “His hands aren’t that gifted.”
Veteran journalist Adrienne Washington writes weekly for the AFRO about relevant issues in the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia. Send correspondence to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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