Donald Trump’s selection of Ben Carson as secretary of the Housing and Urban Development is eerily Reaganite. Though now largely forgotten, the only black in Reagan’s cabinet was Samuel Pierce, who served eight years as HUD secretary and died in 2000.
There are other parallels between Pierce and Dr. Carson. Dr. Carson made a career in the private sector as a surgeon; Pierce did the same as a lawyer. Both rose to prominence because they were not white. When the Tea Party was still drawing attention, Dr. Carson was regularly touted as proof that the movement was not racist. Pierce was the only non-white in Reagan’s cabinet.
Dr. Carson did much to annoy conservatives by supporting gun control and immigration reform, and Pierce was not a dedicated Republican either. He represented Martin Luther King Jr. in the landmark court case New York Times Company v. Sullivan, which made it harder for Southern segregationists to file libel charges against Northern newspapers.
There are parallels in their personalities as well. Pierce was often referred to as “Silent Sam” for always keeping a low profile and rarely making public remarks. He was so low-profile that at a lunch for the US Conference of Mayors held in Washington, President Reagan mistook his own HUD secretary for one of the mayors.
During the Republican primaries Dr. Carson earned the nickname “sleepy doctor” because of his debate performances. He always seemed a bit aloof, unprepared, and too relaxed–almost as if he had taken tranquilizers. And much like Pierce, Dr. Carson does not give the impression of being very political. Both men were accomplished in their own fields, but had no talent for winning office. Pierce lost the only election he ever ran for, and Dr. Carson ran for president only because aggressive fundraisers pressured him into it.
Let us hope the parallels between Pierce and Dr. Carson run even further, because Pierce was the best HUD secretary American ever had. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is one of the most effectively anti-white arms of the federal government. Founded as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, one of its main jobs is to promote housing integration. It sues private companies for housing discrimination and tries to push Section 8 housing into white areas. If it forces enough private banks to make mortgage loans to unreliable non-whites, it can lead to a major economic crash. Heads of HUD tend to be strongly anti-white: Julian Castro, Jack Kemp, Andrew Cuomo, and George Romney (Mitt’s father).
But Pierce, presumably under Reagan’s direction, tamed HUD. He cut the budget for “subsidized housing” from $26 billion to $8 billion. Of 40,000 applications from banks seeking to expand their operations, Pierce’s HUD denied only eight of them on grounds that they violated the “Community Reinvestment Act,” which requires them to make loans to dodgy non-white borrowers.
In the end, Pierce seems not to have cared much about his job. His staff later said he spent most afternoons in his office watching TV. He didn’t talk much about his work either. When pressed about this he would say, “I’m not the one with the militant statement or the quick quip. I’m loyal to President Reagan.”
Pierce’s HUD ended up being rocked by scandal. Though nothing came to light until after Reagan was out of office, the stink was so bad that Pierce had to testify about it before Congress. He emerged with only a bad reputation, but several of his close HUD associates got felony convictions.
Much of what HUD does hurts whites. It was mercifully ineffective under the leadership of a budget-slashing, easy-going, and possibly corrupt black guy who was loyal to an implicitly pro-white Republican president. Let’s hope history repeats itself.
In a perfect world, Mr. Trump would abolish HUD, but since he isn’t going to, Dr. Carson is an excellent choice to head it. A “bleeding heart” Republican such as Paul Ryan or Rand Paul might try to start “enterprise zones” in black ghettos or waste money in other futile ways. Dr. Carson won’t do that; it’s hard to imagine him doing much of anything. Like Pierce, he will probably just follow the boss’s orders, which should weaken HUD. So we welcome the new HUD secretary, and hope that the spirit of Sam Pierce goes with him.