Bart Haggerty deserves much of the credit for pulling it all together in a quick amount of time. Forest Hills, despite its imbalanced party registration, has a small, but steady, conservative element.
This is not the first time a presidential candidate has made his way through these parts. In 2000, former ambassador Alan Keyes made a similar appearance at a GOP club on Lefferts Boulevard.
Keyes was never a serious candidate, but his appeal to the fringe kept him around longer than expected in 2000. It is likely that Carson will not be in this race for the duration, but he did show a good understanding of the economy and social issues.
In a speech that took a few minutes to gain momentum, Carson’s dry humor quickly turned to the national debt, among other issues.
Not long into Carson’s speech, which was surprisingly longer than one would expect at a local event, it became clear that he represented something more than whatever the 2016 election does.
Republicans are going to have a hard time in any national election no matter the candidate, because the Electoral College is set up where states have a winner-take-all system. The large urban areas tilt the big states to the left, thus making it almost impossible for the GOP to win a presidential election.
In a district-by-district system, it would be more competitive. Carson, however, is an example of something different.
Before Rudolph Giuliani was narrowly elected mayor in 1993, there was no real case study of a progressive city rolling the dice on a “right of center” style of governance.
Carson spoke about growing in Detroit, raised by a single mother. It doesn’t take long to figure out that the Detroit he grew up in was smack in the middle of some bad times.
This is not to suggest that there is a bevy of conservative kids hidden in America’s cities, there are not. But to assume that effective public policy can only come from one party is flawed.
Good urban policy can come from the right, as well as the left. And in those few moments when cities like Los Angeles or New York elected “center-right” mayors, it has worked. America’s political right has to worry less about 24-hour news and bring some pragmatism to city governments.
It was only a few short years ago that Washington, D.C.’s Democratic mayor, Adrian Fenty, ushered in an experimental school choice program to allow students to use vouchers for better performing schools.
President Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, originally liked the idea. Although liking the idea became a little risky when the 2012 election approached.
The point is that some ideas in the conservative arsenal might work locally, but they are too often hidden in small political clubs without the muscle of elected officials. Maybe that is where a person like Ben Carson can really add to the public debate. He is a kid that made good, from a city that did not do him any favors.
The Forest Hills crowd was not one that would have pressed any candidate on the murky relationship between urban youth and police officers, but kudos to Carson for bringing it up anyway.
If Carson is serious, and he feels that he is needed, he can be quite relevant, even if he does not get elected president. The conservative footprint in urban America only exists on television, and that is too bad. Even if a few useful solutions, like school choice, prove fruitful, it benefits the country.