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Make Your Voice Heard
by Ben Carson and Candy Carson
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
We couldn't decide between labeling Carson's book as "pabulum" versus "milquetoast." "Pabulum" means the book is insipid; "milquetoast" means the speaker is unassertive. We decided to go with "pabulum" in the hopes that Carson might someday overcome his milquetoast attitude and write a real political book. And perhaps we can dismiss his attitude as more "conservative" than "milquetoast."
Most of the book is spent hinting at Carson's actual opinions, by reciting standard euphemisms in the context of current events. For example, Carson says "there are many who fan the flames of division t every opportunity. One of their favorite techniques is pitting blacks against whites and the rich against the poor." Maybe that hints that Carson opposes the "Black Lives Matter" movement (which pits black victims against white police), and maybe that also hints that Carson opposes the "Occupy" movement (which pits the wealthiest 1% against the poorer 99%). But Carson doesn't say that – he just hints, throughout the whole book. The book is pabulum because Carson doesn't actually apply his hints to current events or serious issues of the day.
Carson might defend his lack of conclusiveness by saying conclusions should be left to the reader. That theory does have political precedence – we accused Barack Obama of the same lack of conclusiveness in his pre-presidential campaign book The Audacity of Hope. But Obama's purpose was to create a "blank slate" that voters could fill in with their own conclusions, showing both sides of the issues and then hinting at Obama's stance in the current event context. Carson, in contrast, only shows the other side of the issue to point out how wrong-headed they are, and then hints at the right-headed view (but without any current event context).
We accept Carson as not quite milquetoast because Carson would defend himself as just being conservative. Indeed, Carson defends the status quo (those are all the right-headed views) against change (those are all the wrong-headed views) – that is the essence of conservatism. We would prefer if Carson were strongly conservative and was outspoken about it – instead we had to infer exactly what he meant in all of our excerpts. (We THINK we got them all right!).
Our biggest complaint is Carson's choice of topics and tone. Every topic is chosen and posed as if Carson were asking, "Do you support motherhood and apple pie?" And Carson says that if there are problems with motherhood and apple pie, the you should READ for half an hour per day (pp. 15-6) and you should make sure to VOTE (p. 7). Well, we agree that people should read and should vote, and we do support motherhood and apple pie too, but what's the POLICY? That's what is missing in this book: What should be DONE about it?
For example, Carson opens the book with an anecdote about how he once showed up 5 minutes before he polls closed, on election day, and was turned away from voting. I thought, "Oh, he's going to bash the illegality of being turned away even though he showed up on time, and maybe accuse the gatekeeper of subtle racism." But no, Carson instead recommends planning your day to get to the voting booth earlier.
Well, maybe I'm not conservative enough to believe that one should meekly accept being disenfranchised instead of considering it a criminal act to turn away a voter (it was not criminal then, but it has been made criminal since; someone like me fought hard to make it criminal, rather than meekly accepting it like Carson did). But Carson has a platform to be heard by millions of people – and he squanders this opportunity to say anything meaningful. Of course, Carson's politeness and soft-spoken attitude is the reason millions of people listen to him – but we'll leave that to his readers to decide.
-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, July 2016
Make Your Voice Heard
by Ben Carson and Candy Carson.
Page last edited: Feb 20, 2019