Two things combined this week leading to this letter: (1) I have read 81 out of the 193 pages of presidential nomination seeker Dr. Ben Carson’s book, “A More Perfect Union,” which came out in October, loaned to me by one who thought I should read it; (2) I have been thinking, as we approach the Dec. 14 end of the filing period for public office at the county, state and federal office in Texas, about the variety of reasons people have for deciding to file – or not file – for office, seeking party nomination in the March primary elections, which determine who goes onto the ballot for the November general election.
Through the Republican activity so far I have been curious as to what might have led Dr. Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon of great fame, a prolific author and motivational speaker, to think it appropriate for him to seek to become president of the United States.
I have no such question about Donald Trump, believing that to be just plain old ego. But Carson is a very accomplished, clearly very intelligent man with a real personal history of the kind of rise from a severely disadvantaged background (but blessed with a mother almost beyond belief), which we usually only see in the Horatio Alger stories.
I intended to finish his book but the level of his ignorance of the Constitution and government in general makes it extremely painful to slog on.
One of the early errors I noted, on page 25, was the claim that the requirement for ratification of the Constitution was a 2/3 majority of the states. Actually, Article VII required ratification by nine of the states. My calculator says that 9/13 is 69.2 percent -- a bit more than 2/3.
There are many more gross errors, for instance his claim on page 80 that two forms of government are competing today in the U.S., socialism and capitalism.
These are economic arrangements, not forms of government. Don’t we usually call ours “representative democracy?”
His claims at some points that the founders lacked governmental/political experience (as does he) are ludicrous. The book purports to be about the Constitution.
Second and related topic: What motivates those who file for a particular public office?
It seems to me that some are good and valid reasons, as well as less-defensible reasons. My focus here at this time is mostly on our county-level offices.
Space being limited, I am out of room to comment further and encourage readers to query our candidates and evaluate their responses. Candidates might also reflect on the topic.
Note: It is concern to me that Carson, who coauthored his book with his spouse, did not have the sense to recruit a capable high school civics teacher or a community college political science
faculty member to fact-check the manuscript for him prior to publication. One who would have extensive appointive powers needs to have the ability to recognize who needs to be tapped to fill what roles.
Dale Christophersen is a retired Sul Ross State University political science professor and the former Brewster County Democratic Party chairman.