Dr. Ben Carson: A Principled Moderate

I have become an advocate for Dr. Ben Carson’s candidacy for President of the United States, but it wasn’t always so. In the beginning, I got a bit caught up in ideology and thought Dr. Carson was a nice guy, but all over the place in terms of policy. He actually recommended gun control in one interview saying that city people need a different level of control than rural people. My immediate reaction was that no control is appropriate. But now that I’ve read much of Ben Carson’s book, I think I had allowed myself to become too inflexible. We tend to think that only conservatives can be called “principled” and that political moderates are just folks who can’t make a clear decision, but that’s unfair.

Dr. Carson is a moderate based on principle. He looks at each situation and balances his Christian ideals with the practical needs of people. He recognizes that city people operate in a different environment than rural people and that we can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. The population density of a city fosters a more emotionally charged environment among very diverse groups of people, so having everyone carry handguns might not be a good idea. The writer of Hebrews 12:14-15 gives us a Biblical principle behind Dr. Carson’s pragmatic approach, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” In other words, look for a principle that doesn’t undercut people and unnecessarily create conflicts that inhibit people from a gracious outcome.

It may well be that in America’s conflict over ideology, people in the cities need to embrace a degree of political socialism while those in rural America can remain strong conservative individualists. Rather than forcing an either/or solution, a principled moderate can use the right tool for the job. In a similar way, Dr. Carson advocates for new ways of delivering health care that require a certain amount of government oversight. He would rather that people would take charge of their own needs, but he recognizes that many Americans haven’t taken individual responsibility, and we can’t simply allow them to die. A long process of education would be needed to wean Americans off of dependency, but meanwhile we have to deal with the situation as it is, so let’s tweak the system to provide a health safety net just like Social Security provides a retirement safety net.

The heart of Ben Carson’s philosophy is compassion…it’s people over principles, and that is his principle. It’s similar to the Hippocratic Oath of the medical profession embodied in the phrase “to do no harm”. We should hesitate to invoke a principle that harms the individual, even when we think they could have behaved more responsibly. We’ll deal with re-education after we first deal with the immediate need.

Not a bad ideal for a President of all the people.