Attend event to watch Dr. Ben Carson speak live. CHECK.
Some people geek out over Taylor Swift, One Direction, Beyoncé, or Harry Potter. But for whatever reason, I geek out over Dr. Ben Carson and #ImNotEvenMad to admit this.
I had the pleasure to attend an event hosted by The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco where Dr. Ben Carson was guest speaker last week. One might ask, What in the world is Ben Carson doing in ultra liberal San Francisco? Attempting to convert lost liberal souls to the gospel not of conservatism but of common sense-there’s a difference. Understanding this difference begins with understanding the fact that Carson is a man of common sense before he is a conservative; he doesn’t allow for ideology to blind or bind him. So what is common sense according to Ben Carson? Common sense is described by Carson as “the ability to assimilate information and then use that (information) in a practical way to solve problems.” Carson has explained that ideology, or preconceived ideas and beliefs, gets in the way of common sense because when an individual becomes an ideologue they have to strain everything through their ideology even if it doesn’t makes sense to do so. Having to strain everything through ideology inhibits the ability to think clearly or logically when faced with solving problems. When having lost the ability to think logically, Carson maintains that when ideologues are confronted with even the best and practical of solutions they are rejected solely on the basis that said solution doesn’t fit in with their ideology. Carson has explained that “common sense and logic play no role in ideology”. How is common sense different from conservatism? The difference between conservatism and common sense is that the former is a political ideology that provides a framework that controls or dictates how an individual should think and act while the latter is simply wisdom. Because conservatism is an ideology it inherently, as Bill Clinton once said, “…gives the answer before you look at the evidence…”. So, an individual as their mind made up and knows “…all the answers and that makes evidence irrelevant and arguments a waste of time… ” This is precisely why Carson advocates for common sense over conservatism. Carson believes that common sense empowers and liberates the American people-and it does in theory. In practice however, it will be initially difficult (but doable) for Carson, as a Republican candidate, to break down the barriers set up by ideologies tightly held by minorities and Democrats about the Grand Old Party.
When I listened to Ben Carson speak I didn’t hear or see the stereotypical Republican but rather a man with simple, pragmatic solutions for a country desperately needing those type of solutions. When I listened to Carson’s life story and platform, it becomes apparent that he understands the struggle and desire of those living in poverty and stuck in a shrinking middle class to progress and enjoy the fullness of the American dream. In words and demeanour Ben Carson has the ability to appeal to every American independent of political party.
What Was The Vibe Like?
Interestingly enough, even though San Francisco is known to be the bastion of liberalism the event was completely sold out and so packed people were standing in the aisles. A quick albeit thorough scan of the room made me realize I was the only millennial and Latina. From my vantage point, the crowd was overwhelmingly white, older (as in average age 55+ with some late thirty and forty somethings), and some African-Americans. There weren’t any college students to be found or anyone that appeared to be in their twenties. The makeup of the room was indicative not only of the voter demographic that follows Carson but also the necessity of expanding out from that voter demographic into new territory: the millennial vote and Latino vote.
What is Ben Carson Like In Person?
A man almost as wise as the great King Solomon, as humble as Moses from the Bible, and even more down to earth than Taylor Swift, Carson is a force albeit a stealthy one to reckoned with. He emits this genuineness and approachability that puts everyone at ease and draws people to him. I found Carson to be quietly assertive and possess the tact and finesse to navigate even the most difficult of situations and equally important make people listen and understand his message. In an age where corrupt politicians can be bought, Carson is a man of integrity refusing to “lick people’s boots” ( Carson’s rated G version for not kissing ass for money or special favors). Despite his many accolades and tremendous success, He is still a man from the people and for the people. Carson also proved to be surprisingly charming and oh so effortlessly cool. By cool I mean he just oozes this quiet but fierce self-confidence that doesn’t need to prove anything and is secure in what he has to offer as a candidate. I was taken aback by how charming and funny he was too. One of the qualities that I think will resonate with voters is Carson’s honesty about the issues he struggled with growing up in poverty and his anger issues as a teen. I definitely think that his honesty and background adds a human quality that none of the other candidates be they Democratic or Republican have which is beneficial to identifying with the everyday American from the lowest socioeconomic rung to the highest echelons of society. Carson sees himself as a servant and instrument of the people. He truly feels a sense of duty to the American people and feels the weight of their hope to lead the United States in an entirely new direction. Carson’s upbringing and who he is as a man is what separate him from the rest of the pack which will lead him into the minds and hearts of the American people and hopefully into the Oval Office.
The Issues (As They Pertain To Our Community)
Education reform: At the event Carson didn’t implicitly delineate an education reform plan but he did talk about how important education was for his mother, the massive role that reading played during his childhood, and the importance of using education as means to invest and develop today’s youth. Carson described how his mother believed that education was the key out of poverty. It was his mother’s belief in the power of education that has made Carson passionate about education so much so that he and his wife, Candy, started the Carson’s Scholar Fund, a program which offers students a $1,000 college scholarship and helps fund reading rooms for children. A central tenet in Carson’s education reform is overturning Common Core State Standards Initiative in favor of school systems being run by teachers, parents, and principals over federal bureaucrats. He believes in raising the academic standards in American education so that students can compete with students from other nations who already hold a wide lead over American students.
Carson believes that education is fundamental to American success but he hasn’t talked about how he intends on making something so vital and fundamental to success more accessible and affordable. Making education accessible and affordable is one of the biggest struggles faced by Latino youths today. Low college completion rates, navigating college options, lack of career exposure, confusion about financial aid, high costs that sometimes make four-year universities an unviable option, and many other issues plague Latinos who want to go to college especially first generation college students. Latino parents value education just as much as Carson’s mother if not more and would be willing to go to great lengths to see their children not only graduate high school but attend good universities. What initiatives is Carson going to put in place that will facilitate affordable education for not only Latinos but all who desire to better themselves by pursuing college and master’s degrees? Though Carson’s story of being raised by a mother with a third grade education that worked three jobs can resonate with Latinos, he needs to provide a feasible plan that makes college more affordable. Overturning Common Core isn’t enough as completing high school doesn’t even guarantee a minimum wage job anymore due to having to compete with underemployed or unemployed graduates that have college and/or masters degrees.
The Economy and Jobs:
Carson is not only an advocate of the middle and lower class but also for creating equal opportunity of advancement for all Americans. Carson made economic growth and tax reform central to his plan to revitalize the American economy. Despite being a Republican, Carson believes that U.S. corporations don’t pay their fair share because of the many loopholes and deductions that allow for them slickly to avoid paying and result in the lower and middle classes being negatively affected. To avoid penalizing those who already find themselves in tight financial constraints and to equalize the tax code, he would do away with loopholes and deductions by instituting a flat tax of 10% that would be proportionate to what people and corporations make though it would be close to 15% initially. Not having to pay for corporate greed would allow for Latino families to have more money to save, invest, or help their children attend college.
Carson then explained how up until the year 2000 the U.S. growth rate was 3.3% but since 2001 it has dropped to 1.8%. This sluggish economic growth has resulted in the stagnant wages and high unemployment rates faced by Latinos and other Americans. He discussed how the United States has an unreasonable tax system that detracts from entrepreneurial risk taking and capital investment instead of encouraging it. The United States has the highest corporate tax in the developed world and high corporate taxes drives business out of the country which leads to unemployment and low wages. To bring back business to U.S. soil, Carson suggested to have a 6 month hiatus on corporate tax to repatriate over 2 trillion of American money over seas at no charge to the taxpayer. He suggests to allot 10% to be used to create jobs for people on welfare and unemployment. The fact that Carson talks about bringing back U.S. money, jobs, and business back home is an area where he can appeal to Latinos as they are highly entrepreneurial. According to the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Haas School of Business of UC Berkeley, Latino owned businesses make up the fast growing segment of the small business sector and start at a rate about twice the national average. The study also mentioned how Latina entrepreneurs are starting businesses at a staggering six times the national average! Carson’s message of creating an economic environment that supports innovation and entrepreneurship is the American Dream not only for Latinos but all. Latinos will support anyone be it Carson or another candidate that makes this dream a reality. Carson has a plan in place that will highly benefit Latinos and now it’s just a matter of taking this plan out to the field and begin meeting Latino small business owners to tell them about this plan.
Carson spoke extensively about how he plans to reform healthcare in the United States by doing away with Obamacare and enacting a health savings accounts plan. Healthcare is another point where Carson can reach Latinos as they are the most disproportionately uninsured populations; it is estimated that 25% of Latinos are uninsured. High uninsured rates affect both native and foreign-born Latinos but affect the latter at far higher rates. The reasons that have been used to explain such high uninsured rates stem from high costs, language barriers both in paperwork and with doctors, overwhelming amount of paper work that is also confusing, and a lack of outreach programs that target Latinos. It becomes apparent that the problem among insured Latinos can be reduced to high costs and poor relationships between patient and doctor/hospital which Carson’s health savings account plan seeks to address. According to the National Council of La Raza, California has the highest rate of uninsured Latinos at 60% while Texas is the second state with 50% of Latinos being uninsured and Florida comes in third with 36% of Latinos being uninsured. This is one of the many reasons why Carson should think about planning outreach events centered around important issues like healthcare and education to meet with people and understand the problems faced by Latinos first hand.
Health savings account plans, which would call for individuals to deposit money in a savings account since birth that would be used to pay for current or future medical treatments, would be a fantastic way to get Latinos directly involved in their own and their family’s healthcare and become responsible over their own health since it would cost individuals and their families dearly if they were to fall sick.
Immigration Reform: Jorge Ramos can breathe a sigh of relief and sleep better tonight because Carson clearly said he’s not deporting the 11 million plus illegal immigrants residing in the United States or stripping anyone’s U.S. citizenship that was born here but as illegal parents. Carson supports a comprehensive immigration reform. Firstly, Carson advocates for securing all borders be they Canadian or Mexican to stop the influx of illegal immigrants and stop the benefits that attract illegal immigration. For the 11.8 million illegal immigrants living in the shadows Carson would allow for a six month period where they register under a guest worker program and pay back taxes. He makes it clear that this guest worker program does not guarantee voting rights or citizenship but says illegal immigrants must apply for citizenship and get in “the back of the line” if they desire to become U.S. citizens.
Carson’s practical stance shows him to be a man of empathy and compassion that isn’t in the business of tearing apart families and callously uprooting individuals who do not know any other home apart from the United States. He understands that all who are living in the shadows are a vital economic component that everyday Americans depend on in some capacity and must be treated with dignity. Carson ability to understand the struggle of illegal immigrants puts him in a great position to win the hearts and minds of Latinos.
As mentioned earlier in this post, the make up of the room made me wonder if or when Ben Carson will target the Latino and millennial vote more aggressively. Carson is beginning to target the college demographic with #studentsforbencarson on Instagram while also offering a sign up with the same title. As far as the Latino vote, he was the only Republican to accept an invitation from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials to an event earlier in the summer and had an Latino outreach event in Seneca, SC which flopped…miserably. What happened in Seneca, SC? Carson planned a Latino outreach event hosted by two Latino business owners who are brothers. There was a small showing of people but the only Latinos who attended were the two brothers that hosted the event. I may not know the exact reasons as to why the event in Seneca, SC was a major flop but I suspect poor planning. Why do I say poor planning? A quick look at a map of the Latino electorate from the Pew Hispanic Center shows how Latinos in South Carolina only make up 2.3% of eligible voters. To put this in perspective, in South Carolina there are 3,514,000 of people who are eligible to vote. Of the 3,514,000 who are eligible to vote only 82,000 are Latinos. The Pew Hispanic Center ranks South Carolina as the 31st state that has the largest Latino eligible voter population. Thirty-first! South Carolina is also home to only 0.5% of all Latinos in the United States. No wonder the event was a flop! But alas a silver lining: a candidate’s agenda reflects his priorities and through taking the time to plan this event it is evident that at least Latinos are a priority for Carson and not an afterthought.
Carson has been interviewed in Univision’s Al Punto with Jaime García and has been given press at Univision.com. But so what? Neither Univision or Carson has made a case for why he is the candidate for the Latino electorate. Univison has made a strong case why Trump is not even an option for Latinos but they seem neutral if not tepid about Carson. It isn’t good enough just receiving press on Univision.com or Noticiero Univision. It is about who interviews Carson. When he is interviewed by the likes of Jorge Ramos or María Elena Salinas this signifies Carson is important and relevant to Latinos. The thing Carson lacks among Latinos is the one thing Univision can give him: credibility. I doubt Ben Carson’s name is familiar among Latinos so to increase Carson’s familiarity among us it would be a good idea to be interviewed by either Ramos or Salinas as both carry weight and credibility among Latinos.
I would really like to see more from Carson in terms of targeting the Latino vote. Carson’s success has been attributed to social media mainly the use of Facebook. This has enabled him to personally connect and engage his supporters making it a brilliant, unorthodox move. The Pew Research Center’s Internet Project reported that 80% of U.S. Latino adults use social media compared to 72% of the country overall and over index in the usage of social media in general. It also found that Facebook is the most popular and most used social media among Latinos with 73% of Latinos using Facebook compared to 71% of the general population. There are 23 million active Latino users accordingly to Facebook Latin America Vice President Alexandre Hohagen. Carson is basically sitting on the gold mine we know as the Latino vote. Latinos are already on Facebook and highly connected to other social media they just need to be engaged by Carson. Another medium to reach and engage Latinos is through Instagram as Pew reported that it’s the second most popular social media platform among Latinos and African-Americans. Latinos aren’t only highly connected on social media platforms but over index in the video consumption. According to Nielsen’s Cross-Platform Report published last year, Latinos watch a whooping 62 percent more digital video than non-Latinos. These statistics prove that both Carson and other 2016 presidential candidates have a variety of mediums to connect with Latinos. ¡Conectate con nosotros Dr. Carson!/Connect with us Dr. Carson!
It isn’t just about connecting with Latinos through the above mentioned mediums but rather how candidates go about doing it; it has to be culturally relevant and speak to our cultural duality. Carson or other candidates can’t rest on the fact that Latinos are Americans too. Just as much as Latinos are American we are also Latino and this means the need to talk to this duality. Candidates can’t adopt a total market approach when targeting Latinos as personalization is key and a sure way to win our vote. Perhaps Carson should hold a Q&A for Latinos on Facebook or something similar that invites and acknowledges the Latino electorate and serves as a two-way exchange where Carson and Latinos get to know each other. It is important that Carson recognizes that though Latinos are Americans they face struggles unique to Latinos and address how he as president would help Latinos overcome those struggles. An interview with either Jorge Ramos or María Elena Salinas to build credibility among Latinos and social media engagement is merely the beginning of generating buzz and getting the word of mouth going among Latinos. Latinos are huge on word of mouth and experiencing things be they products, that new restaurant, or politician for themselves and usually at the nudge of a family member or friend. Leading in the polls mean nothing if we don’t personally see for our selves why a candidate is leading in the polls. Planning outreach events in key cities such as Texas, Florida, New Mexico, California, Nevada, and Arizona that are home to a high Latino population that is eligible to vote is crucial. Carson needs to give Latinos of all walks of life a chance to meet him in person so they get to know him better and where they can communicate what issues are important to them. What places should these outreach events take place? Cultural events so that Carson understands who we are culturally first hand, universities with high Latino enrollment, Latino small business and healthcare organizations but especially anywhere Latinos experience problems so that their first impression of Carson is that of a man who seeks to solve their problems and not campaign for their vote. Having this first impression of Carson will allow Latinos to see what solutions Carson can put forth to solve their problems and facilitate the American Dream. After the interviews and outreach events always continue to engage Latinos in social media.
Now that we have entered Hispanic Heritage month which celebrates the contributions of Latinos and Hispanics to the United States and our culture, what better way for Carson to kick off his Latino outreach efforts? He has a whole month to take advantage of to engage Latinos be they in social media, video, or in person. Carson should take use this month to understand our culture, people, problems, and goals. I truly feel that if Carson loses the Latino vote it’ll be due to lack of exposure and familiarity to his platform and that’s the worst way to lose.