It’s really no surprise Ben Carson dropped out of the race. After all, he’s been consistently polling in disappointingly small numbers. He’s been flopping in the primaries. His early promise as an exciting candidate didn’t maintain momentum, and leaving was really the logical choice.
The jaw-dropping surprise, rather, has come from his choice in endorsing Donald Trump Friday. Carson campaigned on morals. Followers got used to him trying to take the high ground in debates. While sometimes his attempts to be the bigger person made him a little boring to watch in debates that often more closely resembled a circus than real life, it was also refreshing to see someone keep cool and not become a parody.
All of this came to a screeching halt when he threw in with his polar opposite, a man who has turned this race not just into a sideshow, but one many of us keep hoping will result in him announcing this has been an elaborate performance art piece.
Carson’s supporters are not taking this well. Social media is exploding with the shock of this seemingly huge flip.
"Hi, I'm Ben Carson. Welcome to Jackass"
*endorses Donald Trump*
— Rock (@TheMichaelRock) March 11, 2016
*Ben Carson wakes from a 7 month stupor*
"I endorsed WHO?"
— Ham on Wry (@realHamOnWry) March 11, 2016
They’re also questioning his motives. Matt Laslo at The Guardian asks, “One can’t help but wonder if everyone who endorses Trump, as Carson did on Friday morning, gets a fat bag of cash in exchange for their soul. Or maybe they just get a lifetime supply of failed Trump products – piles of magazines from the 90s, rotten steaks and Virginia wine to serve only to the most annoying guest. Soon there will be a wall of has-beens standing behind Trump, just like Chris Christie did last week. The blank stares of his endorsers are telling. They have either lost their souls, or never had one at all. They reveal the state of the Republican party today: it, too, is soulless.”
The shock makes sense when you consider Carson’s words just a few days previous on March 4:
I hope my presence added a measure of civility to the race, raised issues that would not otherwise have been discussed and had an overall positive impact. While our political efforts must come to a close, gratefully, the grassroots movement that has given new voice to ‘We the People’ and inspired millions will continue… I have committed to not endorse a specific individual, but rather ‘We the People.’ Though many today are making decisions based on fear and anger, I trust their judgment to logically examine the candidates and make the right decision by looking at:
(1) Whether they have demonstrated significant accomplishments over their lives and careers.
(2) If they have ideas that are clear and policies that are easy to find.
(3) How they treat their family and others, as that is how they will lead the country.
(4) What they have done to improve the lives of Americans; the people they are with, what they are saying and how they collaborate with others.
(5) Their ethics, because what America needs is ‘Trickle-down ethics.’
Under Carson’s announcement on Facebook, a supporter pleads, “Dr. Carson, you owe your dedicated followers, ‘we the people’, that you claimed to endorse, an explanation. It is not good enough for Donald Trump to say on a debate stage that he will give you a high office in government if he is elected, and then for you to endorse him the next morning without any kind of reasoning for turning back on what you previously have said.
I urge you to reconsider both this decision and especially the decision to not be forthcoming with the American people about the reasons behind your change of heart. We the people deserve to know. You gave us your endorsement, and then you ripped it out from under our feet and handed it to a man many of us believe is in the process of destroying everything we hold dear.”
So Much for Ethics
What does it mean for us if the most calm and moral among us is willing to put everything aside to support Trump? Those closest to Carson may understand this shift better than the public, but if so they’re not explaining anything for the rest of us.
Leadership isn’t about sucking up for power, but standing firm against it when it’s dangerous. This shows Carson was never truly fit for leadership at this level. Governments worldwide are full of charismatic and persuasive leaders, but magnetism is no indication of ability to do good with one’s power. Trump’s personal history is rife with unethical behavior no parents would want their children to emulate, including over this weekend inciting his supporters to violence against their political opponents and promising to give thuggery legal protection.
If our hope for the election, for our country’s future, is for calmer heads to prevail, Friday morning was a blow. The Democratic field has been narrow with two main candidates while the Republican side has been fractured into many camps, all tearing each other down. The in-fighting and shenanigans have not brought us closer together. Our country needs focus and integrity, not divisive, self-driven narcissistic policies.
This isn’t “The Apprentice,” and endorsements aren’t auditions to be Trump’s protégé. This is reality. The stakes aren’t ratings or just another business venture—it’s our lives and our country. Those former candidates who have jumped on the bandwagon shouldn’t be surprised when Trump eventually turns to them and says, “You’re fired.”