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I'm With Stupid: Bathroom Politics and the Rise of Ben Carson

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 5/11/2015 Karl Frisch

Imagine you are sitting in a focus group of swing-voters designed to assess their opinions of the various Republican candidates running for president in 2016.
The moderator reads dryly from a sheet of paper: "Raised by a single mother, this African American husband, father, and grandfather is an entrepreneur and respected brain surgeon - not a politician." He then pauses and asks, "Would you be more or less likely to support someone like this for president?"
You would be hard-pressed to find someone in the group who does not find such a background compelling, perhaps even refreshing when compared to the dozens of candidates for president over the past few elections.
The moderator presses forward, "Now I am going to read you some statements made by this candidate. He has said being gay is a choice because 'a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight -- and when they come out, they're gay.' He has said President Obama's healthcare reform law 'is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.' He has said, 'there is no war on women. There may be a war on what's inside of women, but there is no war on women in this country.' And finally, he has said that he 'would use the Department of Education to...monitor our institutions of higher education for' political speech with which he disagrees."
After rattling off this string of public comments made by the candidate, the moderator concludes by asking the focus group, "after hearing these statements are you more or less likely to support this candidate for president?"
The average independent-minded swing voter, Democrat, or other thinking person would be appalled by such sentiments. They would have trouble believing that anyone with these views could be allowed anywhere near an operating room let alone the Oval Office.
Shockingly, Ben Carson is a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination not despite these observations but because of them. In fact, when Carson finds himself pilloried in the media over his bizarre views and unfounded, ridiculous comments, his support only hardens. That is because conservatives find nothing more entertaining and hilarious than rankling the politically correct values of those they deem to be on team liberal.
This sensibility sells Anne Coulter's books, keeps a certain half-term Alaska Governor in the media spotlight, drives the ratings of Fox News personalities like Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly, fills the AM airwaves, and defines the GOP's quest for a new standard bearer in 2016.
Trolling liberals to gin up outrage is the modern conservative movement's collective sense of humor where every night is an open mic night and amateurs are strongly encouraged to try their hand at making "those people" angry.
It was this hateful posture that motivated the successful campaign to repeal Houston's equal rights ordinance this week, which protected citizens from discrimination based on race, age, gender, pregnancy, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and military status.
Opponents of this anti-discrimination policy focused exclusively on convincing voters that there was some terrible transgender menace lying in wait to assault our womenfolk. It was hateful. It was ridiculous. It was unfounded. And it worked.
It succeeded in no small part because those rightfully offended by such bigoted lunacy and responsible for defending the ordinance failed to adequately respond to the "bathroom predator" myth directly and instead chose to focus on more broadly popular and widely accepted elements of the law.
Whether it is the ludicrous beliefs of Ben Carson and his rabid supporters or the bathroom-obsessed bigots in Houston, this type of vulgar politics metastases when it is not confronted head-on.
That is why Carson, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and the other leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are hell bent on neutering media that sponsor candidate forums. To confront these wannabes on the faulty logic of their policy proposals or the venom and bitterness of their rhetoric is to destroy the thin façade of legitimacy to which the Republican Party clings.
It is time we stop treating these men and their movement like statesmen and patriots and start treating them like flashers on the subway during rush hour because they simply will not stop until they are confronted, embarrassed, and made to feel shame for perhaps the first time in their lives.
Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and longtime political strategist. You can join his email list and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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