(Conservatives will say this column is all about the mainstream media lining up against black conservatives. Political reporters and pundits supposedly gang up on black conservatives because they are rare and upend the idea that all blacks are — and should be?— Democrats, the argument goes. This is nonsense. Colin Powell and Condi Rice, anyone? They have both been reported on as plausible candidates. Ben Carson isn’t in their league. Not even close.)

Carson is doing something odd, which has nothing to do with being a black Republican. Rather than trading up, as can happen with presidential candidates who run credible races, he is trading down. Way down.

He is now a staple of conservative cable news, yet another talking head on the already-crowded political landscape. Carson has traded a stature that had afforded him a much earned authority on issues like education and health care for a role as a conservative hero to a relatively narrow wing of the GOP. He is now playing small ball on an overcrowded stage — and he’s not even doing that very well at the moment.