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The Ironic Beauty of the Political Outsider

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 29/10/2015 Jess Coleman
BEN CARSON © Scott Olson via Getty Images BEN CARSON

Ben Carson isn't supposed to be a politician -- he's a neurosurgeon, a very good one, who happens to have some supposedly good ideas about public policy. Neither is Donald Trump -- he's a rich guy, so rich that he isn't beholden to the other rich guys. And neither is Carly Fiorina -- she's a businesswoman, so she knows about business and money, the things Democrats just don't understand.
They're the "outsiders," and so far as anyone can tell in the early stages of the election, that's good. But how long can you reap the benefits of being an outsider until you are no longer an outsider? When do you cross the line from outsider to -- hello? -- presidential candidate, the ultimate insider?
Take Mr. Carson. At last night's debate, in response to a question about gay marriage, Carson said he believes "marriage is between one man and one woman and there is no reason that you can't be perfectly fair to the gay community." Then -- because all this politicking was apparently disgusting him -- he offered, "the P.C. culture ... it's destroying this nation."
He's talking, of course, about political correctness. What does it mean? Who knows. Maybe it means throwing red meat to your base when it has little to do with the question - for example, responding to a question about oil subsides with a rant about how we should "get rid of all government subsidies and get the government out of our lives and let people rise and fall based on how good they are," as Carson did. Or maybe it is just political correctness for the sake of political correctness -- saying it because people want to hear it -- which, of course, makes it political.
Enter Mr. Trump, who has masterfully diverted the hatred of rich donors by being, er, a rich donor. Trump, who has repeatedly declared his independence from rich donors, himself has donated about $1.5 million to politicians in the past 25 years (more than a third of which, by the way, has gone to Democrats). And no one is more guilty of throwing the 'ole red meat with no fatty substance -- the epitome of political maneuvering -- than Mr. Trump. Remember the Great Wall that Mexico is going to pay for?
Which brings us to Ms. Fiorina, who like Trump, has been a beneficiary of public amnesia. Is this the same Carly Fiorina who ran for the U.S. Senate and lost? Is this the same Carly Fiorina who was an adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign, whose name was floated around as a possible running mate? If so, let's enter in a new rule: If you're a Republican, losing, and losing to Democrats, is a good thing. You're just a victim, an outsider.
Outsider-status is the best thing that has happened to Republican politicians since the Romney-flip-flop. When sitting across from a journalist who asks for the details of, say, your non-existent tax plan, you can cry "P.C." and say the mainstream liberal media is just playing Democratic Super PAC. When you're attacked by a moderate Ohio Governor, you can just say he's responding to polls or trying to get attention from donors. When you impressively own the voice of the only woman on the debate stage today, and then shout your support for defunding Planned Parenthood at a campaign event tomorrow, you can't get called out for it, lest you lambaste the political gotcha culture.
The irony, of course, is that nothing is more political than opportunistically hijacking a perceived advantage, especially one that allows you to run for president without actually having any plans or offering any substance. Marching along, running for president, and playing-up a perception you know will help you is just about as political as you can get.
But let's be real: I'm just another liberal blogger playing political games. And I, along with all those substance-seeking journalists and accomplishment-dragged politicians, just don't understand. We're destroying this nation. Applause.

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