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The Outsider’s Healthcare Townhall

Posted: October 4, 2015 | By: Ryan Tunink Tagged: From the Campaign Trail

10915109_422243124608826_5055437628748607736_oHaving never been to one of the “outsider” candidates’ events, I was unsure what to expect from Ben Carson’s healthcare town hall meeting at the Ankeny DMACC campus. Set outside one of the campus’s new healthcare buildings, around 300 people gathered to hear what Carson had to say about our current healthcare system. The crowd, consisting of nurses, students, businessmen on lunch break, retired locals, and nearly anyone else you could think of, was full of energy, even participating in the wave a few times before the speech.

Despite the event supposedly being about healthcare, Carson actually spent very little time discussing any policy ideas he has in that area. He did mention his idea for a health savings account to reduce the dependence on health insurance, but that seemed to be about it. Instead, most of his speech consisted of returning civility and a sense of harmony to politics, as well as several personal stories stressing the importance of hard work in education. Citing the divisions that seem to impede any progress in government, such as invented race, religious and class wars, Carson urged a return to what he considers our Judeo-Christian roots. This comment clearly divided the crowd, with some wholeheartedly supporting this sentiment, while others were obviously uncomfortable with what was a clear reference to his previous comments that he would not support a Muslim for the presidency.

Once done with his speech, which was difficult enough to follow, Carson seemed to struggle with the questions. Most of these questions involved the medical field, so I was expecting Carson — a doctor — to answer them with ease. However, it was clear he was trying to tie them into other talking points without the ease which comes with more political experience. For example, one audience member asked how to encourage the population to enter medical fields like nursing. After giving a generic answer of improving the workplace environment, he seemed to veer off to pushing his flat tax policy, which really has nothing specifically to do with the medical field. Another question involved improving the V.A. healthcare system, to which Carson suggested giving veterans more options to avoid it, then shifted the question toward a token shout-out to police officers and firefighters.

Despite these difficulties, Carson came across as extremely personable. I would even go so far to say his inability to direct a question in a way that he wants, a hallmark of most experienced politicians, adds to his ability to connect with the audience and advances his image as a true outsider. His personal stories were quite charming, and his soft-spoken demeanor makes him seem incredibly approachable.  Furthermore, his expertise in the medical field shown through some of the questions, particularly one regarding stem-cell research. Overall, the crowd seemed very engaged and supportive of this once little known candidate.

Tunink is a sophomore political science and law, politics, and society major from Waukee, Iowa. He enjoys running on the Drake cross country team and binging on Netflix.