Obamacare’s survival is not a given, despite claims by the Democrats and their media allies that the Supreme Court’s latest rewrite of the law means it’s here to stay. Most Americans still disapprove of it, and many of the law’s provisions are unpopular even with important Democrat constituencies. The “Cadillac tax,” for example, is so reviled by the labor unions that Hillary Clinton has been forced to call for its repeal. Yet, only one of the three leading candidates for the GOP presidential nomination has both the credibility and a serious commitment to getting rid of Obamacare — Ben Carson.
All of the GOP candidates have issued rote calls to repeal Obamacare. But two of the top three contenders have credibility issues. Donald Trump, who leads the GOP race according to the Real Clear Politics polling average, favors single-payer. Until recently, Carly Fiorina supported the hated individual mandate. Only Carson has been consistently and vehemently opposed to the law: In 2013 he compared it to slavery: “It was never about health care. It was about control.” This wasn’t bluster from a career politician. Carson is a neurosurgeon with intimate knowledge of our health care system.
The big question for political “experts,” however, ignores Carson’s credibility and commitment. They want to know how someone who hasn’t made a career of vote cadging and pandering to special interests can win the GOP nomination and the general election, much less amputate Obamacare from the body politic. Nonetheless, as we move beyond the intellectually arid season the pundits have dubbed the “Summer of Trump,” there are signs that the political class has underestimated Carson and his supporters. Carson is overtaking Trump in the polls and raising stunning amounts of money.
In fact, a new survey released late last Friday indicates that Carson has surged past “the Donald” and is now the leader of the Republican field. The IBD/TIPP poll shows Carson seven points ahead of Trump: “The nationwide survey found that 24% of Republicans back Carson, compared with 17% who say they support Trump.” Earlier in the week, an NBC/WSJ survey showed Carson tied with the garrulous real estate magnate: “Donald Trump and Ben Carson are running neck and neck in the national Republican presidential horserace.” Carson’s support has doubled since the previous NBC/WSJ poll.
Meanwhile, Carson has become what one major news outlet describes as a “fundraising juggernaut.” During the quarter just ended, his campaign raised over $20 million. This is not merely far more than any other Republican candidate brought in, it rivals the figures reported by the legendary Clinton cash machine. But, in contrast to Clinton’s high average donation, Carson’s cash is coming in small amounts from individual donors. This is largely due to his campaign’s creative use of Facebook, meaning his staff isn’t encumbered by the lethal GOP learning disability regarding social media.
Carson’s creative use of social media is of a piece with his medical career, which was punctuated by much-celebrated innovations in neurosurgery, and it bodes well for the approach he would use to cure us of Obamacare. And, make no mistake, an innovative alternative for that ill-conceived law will be needed during a general election in which Carson’s most likely opponent has already made it clear that its expansion will be a major priority if she is elected President. Hillary, like President Obama, is committed to disregarding the opinion held by most Americans where Obamacare is concerned.
Carson can and should use this as a way of highlighting the stark contrast between his view of health care, as well as the role of government in general, and Clinton’s vision. Carson would replace government bureaucrats with the free market and put patients and doctors in charge of the health care system. He wants to replace Obamacare with a system in which every American would have a Health Savings Account (HSA), supplemented by funding for catastrophic health coverage. These plans could be purchased from any insurance carrier in the country and the HSAs could be shared by family members.
It hardly needs saying that Obamacare apologists claim this won’t work. When Carson first outlined the HSA plan, even Politico admitted, “Carson speaks from a unique position of stature when it comes to health care. At 33, he was the youngest division leader ever at Johns Hopkins, and for almost three decades he served as the medical center’s director for pediatric neurosurgery.” But Media Matters for America countered this by trotting out that celebrated paragon of honest public policy, Jonathan Gruber, who advised that Carson was merely peddling “a plan for the very rich.”
This is an odd charge to make against a man who pulled himself out of abject poverty to become a world famous brain surgeon. The real objection the left has to Carson’s plan, of course, is that it permits too much freedom. This is why Carson likened Obamacare to slavery. As he pointed out during his speech at CPAC earlier this year, the law’s primary function is “redistribution and control.” During that speech, he also made a very prescient comment about how African-Americans who fail to follow the left’s party line are treated: “If you’re black and you oppose the progressive agenda, you’re crazy.”
Oddly enough, that’s precisely how Carson has been treated by the media. Yesterday, for example, the Huffington Post published a piece with the following title: “Ben Carson Is The Smartest Guy In the Room. And The Weirdest.” While admitting that Carson has “demonstrated a wide range of knowledge on national and world issues,” the author gratuitously inserts adjectives like “paranoid” and “eccentric.” He does his best to portray Carson as a kind of idiot savant: “[L]ike many intellectually gifted people, Carson tends to stand out from the crowd for another reason: He’s kind of an odd guy.”
In reality, Carson is remarkably sensible, as is his plan for replacing Obamacare. This is not to say that, if he became President, it would be easy to eradicate the “Affordable Care Act” and replace it with something that relies on the free market and the self-reliance of millions who have been “fundamentally transformed” from autonomous individuals to dependents of the state. Not the least of his challenges would be the cowardice of congressional Republicans. But Carson’s life story is one of overcoming seemingly impossible challenges, and he has the credibility and commitment to overcome this one.