Thursday, March 21, 2013

The next New York Times #1 Bestselling Novelty?

The latest Republican pan-flash for 2016 is a man named Benjamin Carson. The African-American doctor who lambasted President Obama during a prayer breakfast is turning heads in conservative circles — for being an African-American doctor who lambasted President Obama during a prayer breakfast. If that doesn’t cover every item on the party’s HR checklist, it’s at least a huge bite.

Carson is seen by many as the next Herman Cain or Clarence Thomas. I will not argue that point.

Oftentimes when I hear a black Republican (or a young conservative of any race or gender, for that matter) speak on a national stage, I wonder how they got there. It isn’t that they’re bad or stupid necessarily, but most have a mediocrity about them. Almost as if they won a “You can be a public figure!” contest.

Then it occurs to me — oh, they’re black. Or young. Or a woman. Or they were poor once. And that’s enough. The GOP’s biggest hurdle to inclusiveness is its complete lack of interest in inclusiveness. At the same time, it knows it can’t survive long-term on the increasingly rare 97-octane resentment juices of the Rich Angry White Male, so it has to at least make a token attempt at diversity. Tokens are precisely what the party gets as a result, because most truly civic-minded people aren’t willing to be a pretty face for an ugly platform. In baseball terms, this leaves the Republicans with a shallow bench. They have to take what they can get, and their lineup of politicians and pundits reflects that.

I’ve often joked that if I were a conservative, I’d at least have a radio show by now. But I’m not sure how much of a joke that really is. Young/black/female liberals just don’t merit the national focus their conservative counterparts get, because the novelty factor isn’t there. And neither are Fox’s deep pockets.

Carson is the latest line of supposed stereotype-busters destined for at least short-term fame, and possibly a show on TV or radio. That doesn’t mean he’s the voice of an emerging movement — it means the exact opposite. If black conservatives were a dime a dozen, the GOP could trade up from its Carsons, Cains and Thomases and present someone who isn’t a transparent token.

Or, better yet, not have to present them at all, because they’d be too common to make waves.

Now there’s a novel idea!

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