Dr. Ben Carson hears the same thing, he says, in the North, South, East and West, in red states and in blue states, from young and from old. It's something besides "Run, Ben, run." Here, they say, is someone with common sense.
The author, columnist and retired neurosurgeon, who was at Books-A-Million in Hixson for a book signing Monday night, said in a phone interview before leaving Chattanooga Tuesday that the United States is in need of positive messages.
We need "someone [running for president in 2016] talking about what we can do, not what we can't do," Carson said. "That would resonate tremendously with people."
Many people want the doctor, who was raised in Detroit by his Georgia-born mother and went on to become the youngest major division director in the history of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and best-selling author of the book "Gifted Hands," to be that person.
Carson, a Democrat-turned-Republican like Ronald Reagan with the same sunny but firm oratory style, is often a guest these days on political talk shows, and a National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee commercial frequently airs on Chattanooga radio. The doctor even finished second to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the National Republican Leadership Conference presidential straw poll last week.
Indeed, his views do display common sense. For instance, he says he would replace the Affordable Care Act with patient-centered reforms that focus on the patient and doctor and are administered largely through patient-controlled health savings accounts. He would promote a guest worker program similar to the one used in Canada to deal with illegal immigrants already here and employed. And he would advocate a small central government that doesn't attempt to manage the lives of those who don't choose to act responsibly or plan for the future.
The country's "chronically depressed economy," with its highest corporate tax in the world, its rapidly growing regulations and its high personal taxes, is "good for creating the desire for handouts," Carson said. "If we get the right people in office and take the shackles off, we could have the most dynamic economy you've ever seen, and it would be possible for people to get a job."
Citing one workable solution, he pointed to Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize winner whose policies, according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, showed that "even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development."
"We can do those same things -- give them a way up and a way out," Carson said. "But restoring the economy first is important. Otherwise, it seems like you're being cruel and uncaring."
Carson, also like Reagan, is not afraid to say what he thinks, even if it's not politically correct. So when he referred to the recent Department of Veterans Affairs health care scandal as "a gift from God" because it pointed out the problems of government health care and when he said the United States had become "very much like Nazi Germany" because of government's tools of intimidation (Internal Revenue Service audits, belief-based firings), he didn't back down.
"We've been beaten into submission," he said. "We have become a timid people. We're afraid to speak up. As Thomas Jefferson said, 'When people fear the government, there is tyranny. When government fears the people, there is liberty.'"
Even Congress has become afraid and fearful, Carson said. Members are told "they better not do this; they better not say that. The problem [with that] is the way the government is designed. It only works if all three branches are feeling their oats. If they keep their mouth shut, it doesn't work."
With him, he said, "very much what you see is what you get. This is who I am. I'm not going to become somebody else."
Carson, on tour for his book "One Nation" and on the talk show circuit, is coy about his presidential aspirations, though his wife, Candy, told Times Free Press reporter Yolanda Putman Monday night he had no intention of running.
"God is in control," he said Tuesday. "I don't know what his role is for me. My post-retirement," he said with a chuckle, "has been different than I anticipated. I don't know what the end of that would be."
Nevertheless, Carson said, he is touched when he sees signs like one held by a "little kid" Monday at Books-A-Million that implore, "Please, you have to run for my sake."
"I will ask God to give me wisdom," he said. "I will watch carefully what happens in [the mid-term elections] in November. If [the results] indicate people really want the kind of nation [he envisions], that would be a lot of encouragement."
The former doctor and unapologetic cheerleader for the country could be just the antidote for what ails the country.