Ben Carson's problem is much worse than being politically incorrect

Political correctness is dangerous when it discourages thought or expression. But simply declaring oneself “politically incorrect” — as Carson pridefully does — is not a license to throw off the shackles of protocol and politeness and say crazy, offensive things. It’s a cop-out — a get-out-of-jail-free card for someone who doesn’t want to discipline his tongue or learn to communicate effectively, but instead wants to promiscuously and cavalierly opine about any old thing that crosses his mind. If you abstain from calling the president of the United States a “psychopath,” are you bowing to political correctness, or just not being a jerk?

Sure, Carson gets a lot of mileage by throwing politically incorrect red meat to the base. But if Carson actually wants to advance his conservative ideas, he’d be better off framing them in a way that is more compelling and acceptable to mainstream America. Politics is about more than selling personality — it’s also about selling ideas. Selling is the key word. You can’t just have great ideas — you have to sell them in a way that a majority of Americans will buy. Carson acts as if the act of softening the sales pitch around his ideas is tantamount to selling out.

Compare Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan. The failed 1964 GOP candidate didn’t care what people thought about him. He went around talking about “extremism in defense of liberty.” His very slogan, “In your heart, you know he’s right,” was a tacit admission that he thought he could win by virtue of ideas that on the surface made people uncomfortable — without having to go to the messy trouble of softening his rhetoric. After all, that would be pandering!