One of the central story lines of this Republican National Convention is the accommodation of various conservative factions as they get behind a presidential nominee very few of them supported initially and most laughed at or disparaged. In most cases, this pivot has been accomplished via a focus on the awful alternative of a Hillary Clinton presidency.
But one of the first conservatives to endorse Trump, his former rival Dr. Ben Carson, did not have to find some convoluted rationale for joining the mogul’s camp. For as he made clear during the nomination contest (though it was often missed by uncomprehending media folk), he represents conservatives who quite literally believe that Hillary Clinton is the spear point of a very old conspiracy by secular socialists to impose a tyranny on the United States. In this view (which Carson borrowed to a significant extent from that great purveyor of weird ideas about American history, Glenn Beck), that conspiracy and its deceptive strategies were best formulated by a Chicago-based community organizer (can you think of anyone else who was one of those?) who has been dead for 44 years, Saul Alinsky. Conveniently, Hillary Clinton wrote an undergraduate thesis on Alinsky, ultimately disagreeing with him on his fundamental advocacy of achieving social change from outside the “system” instead of pursuing conventional politics. In Carson’s mind, it all adds up, and in his strange speech to the Republican National Convention Tuesday night, he warned of the quite literally hellish consequences of electing Clinton as president:
One of the things that I have learned about Hillary Clinton is that one of her heroes, her mentors, was Saul Alinsky. [Crowd boos.] Her senior thesis was about Saul Alinsky. This was someone that she greatly admired and that affected all of her philosophies subsequently. Now, interestingly enough, let me tell you something about Saul Alinsky. He wrote a book called Rules for Radicals. On the dedication page, it acknowledges Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own kingdom. Now, think about that. This is a nation where our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, talks about certain inalienable rights that come from our creator. This is a nation where our Pledge of Allegiance says we are “one nation, under God.” This is a nation where every coin in our pocket and every bill in our wallet says “In God We Trust.” So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer? Think about that.
Clearly Carson has “thought about that” nearly every moment of this campaign cycle. He went on to cast Donald Trump in the unlikely role of the Christian soldier fighting to prevent a takeover of the country by Lucifer’s infernal hosts:
The secular progressive agenda is antithetical to the principles of the founding of this nation. If we continue to allow them to take God out of our lives, God will remove himself from us, we will not be blessed and our nation will go down the tubes, and we will be responsible for that …
It is not about Donald Trump. It is not about me. It is about we, the people, and Thomas Jefferson said that we would reach this point because we the people would not be paying attention and it would allow the government to grow, to expand, and to metastasize and to try to rule us.
Crazy as this entire formulation may seem to secular folk, progressive or not, it’s pretty widely shared in Christian-right circles, though many subscribing to it do not have Carson’s additional background of belonging to a pre-millennialist faith community, the Seventh-day Adventists, who tend to view this world as on the cusp of the Last Days. While some Christian conservatives look at Donald Trump and see the antithesis of everything they value, others force themselves to stare at the hated alternative and become convinced they have a religious obligation to fight Lucifer with this sinful man being used by God. To doubt Trump because of his crudeness and lack of principles, in fact, is to bend to the nefarious temptation of "political correctness," the devil’s great weapon, which Carson has denounced with every other breath throughout his candidacy and beyond.
And so, even as other Republicans at this convention shriek at Hillary Clinton with lurid claims that she willingly let Americans be slaughtered at Benghazi or she wantonly violates the law and wants to abolish the very rule of law, here’s the quiet, sometimes charming Ben Carson reaching a similar conclusion from a perspective so outlandish that those hearing it quite literally can’t believe their ears.