After some back and forth in the last few weeks, news is breaking that Dr. Ben Carson, world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon and 2016 Presidential aspirant has agreed to join the Trump Administration as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Carson’s nomination comes after he had previously taken himself out of contention for any spot in the Administration. Carson, an early ally of Trump’s despite some cajoling by both sides on the campaign trail, brings little housing policy experience to the table. However, the position, which would put Carson at the helm of the Great Society Department with 8,416 employees and 12th in the line of succession to the Presidency, could play a larger role in the Trump Administration’s goal to revitalize many of America’s cities.
Putting Carson in this position will be seen as a patronage position by many, but it also gives the physician a chance to oversee some of the pro-business and quality of life improvements in America’s cities. However, Carson’s title and position may have more to do with his loyalty to Trump than any outsized experience on housing and city planning.
Carson grew up poor and his mother occasionally relied on food stamps and government assistance. However, Carson was able to graduate from Yale University and then the University of Michigan Medical School. While working as a surgeon at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital, Carson gained notoriety as one of the greatest surgeons in the world.
It is unclear exactly what qualifications the President Elect sees in Dr. Carson beyond his obvious affable character and medical expertise. However, given that Carson had significant backing in the primary, showed loyalty to Mr. Trump, and retains popularity with a large swath of the American electorate, Carson’s position may be more a reward than a mandate for change.
In effect, this position could be a boon to Carson who, inevitably after a primary loss, would have anticipated seeing his star fade. Also, given low expectations surrounding his potential achievement as the Secretary, he may well be in a position to enact reforms that stand out and improve the lives of Americans across the urban landscape.
As with anyone in the incoming Administration, it’s prudent to give them the benefit of the doubt. Certainly Dr. Carson has proved himself adept in complex and stressful situations, so there’s some hope that he may be able to bring a critical and open mind to America’s housing and urban issues.