It’s Friday, January 22nd, and I’ve set up shop in the corner of a Caribou Coffee in Des Moines, nibbling a stale slice of banana bread I bought solely to mollify the cashier. My mission, as I explained it over the course of the past month: report on the Iowa presidential caucuses. Follow the candidates, talk to the voters, and get the facts on the ground leading up to the caucuses themselves on February 1st.
Unfortunately, day one is a bust thanks to the punctuality of BET (Black Entertainment Television).
I was set to attend the BET #AllVotesMatter town hall in Des Moines with Dr. Ben Carson, Republican anti-racist meat shield and one-time contendah for the presidential nomination… at least before he revealed that he’s a gibbering idiot on foreign policy. I arrived at the auditorium with five minutes to go before the town hall began – no thanks to the obtuse directions on my ticket – only to be told by Carson’s merchandise man that no one else would be allowed in.
“Why not? We’ve got a ticket and everything.” An elderly White couple was already arguing with the volunteer, a portly Black guy.
“BET’s got exclusive filming rights for this town hall,” he replied. “When they started filming, they locked the doors. The auditorium’s not even half-full.”
Attendees kept piling up behind us, turning away dejectedly once they heard the bad news. Aside from me and one other young guy, they were all Whites in their fifties and up.
With nothing more to see, I thanked the volunteer and left. He tried to sell me on a T-shirt, button, and bumper sticker combo for $20 – “And we take cards!” – but I politely declined. As I walked back to my car, I passed a crank dressed like Uncle Sam being interviewed on the importance of voting and autism activism.
Ben Carson is the latest incarnation of a perverse impulse among American conservatives: the desire to prove that they’re not “racist.” Much in the same way that men’s rights’ activists hide behind their female groupies when the feminist termagents come calling, cuckservatives give outsized importance to the handful of minorities within their ranks. As my friend William Rome jokes, “What do you call the one Black man at a libertarian convention?” “The keynote speaker.”
GOP tokenism peaked with Obama’s election in 2008. In a laughingly transparent attempt to woo Hillary supporters, John McCain named a bimbo hick from Alaska as his running mate, barely moving the needle in terms of support. A few months later, the party gave its chairmanship to a Black man, former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, who decided that the GOP needed to adopt a “hip-hop” image to attract young voters. Steele was handed his pink slip after the 2010 elections, in which Republicans managed to take back the House and win six Senate seats while navigating around the obese albatross that was his chairmanship.
Ben Carson, to his credit, is a more intelligent and capable man than the token Blacks the GOP has fielded before him. His accomplishments as a surgeon are no joke, and he hasn’t yet been felled by the kind of “where the White women at?” scandal that ruined Herman Cain and Clarence Thomas. But his candidacy is fueled by a belief that needs to die: the idea that Right-wing ideas are only legitimate if espoused by a woman or racial minority.
As capable as Ben Carson may be as a doctor, he is the wrong man for the wrong time. Whether Republicans can deal with it or not, they are the party of White America, and only a White American can lead them. What I witnessed of Carson’s town hall was proof of this. The only Blacks who were there for the town hall were either BET employees or employees of Carson’s campaign; all the people who were there to see the man himself were White.
In order for Whites to reassert themselves as the core of America, they need to find the courage to advocate for their own interests, themselves. They can’t beg a token Black like Ben Carson to do it for them.
All photos, apart from the cover image, by Matt Forney.