Political Hay

No More Keyes Bashing

Do Republicans fear a serious campaign against a vulnerable opponent?

By 8.16.04

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In the wake of Alan Keyes' decision to run for U.S. Senate at the behest of the Illinois GOP, a cacophony of complaint exploded forth from "those who know better." Three primary themes emerged. First, Alan Keyes is not from Illinois, so his run for office in that state violates the principles of federalism. Second, Keyes has no chance of beating Barack Obama, particularly after the Democratic nominee's star turn at the otherwise low luster party convention in Boston. Third, Keyes is suffering from an overload of conviction. One critic, Mike Murphy, has suggested Keyes is not a rational human being.

I've already written twice on why Keyes' run is a good idea, but the subject deserves another visit. It's time to put the criticisms of the Keyes' campaign to bed so the former ambassador can campaign hard without having constantly to fend of attacks from his natural allies.

First, let's deal with the argument from federalism. A strong counter-argument can be made that Keyes' campaign does not violate principles of federalism in any way. Illinois has set its election laws and determined the standards for who can be a candidate through the action of their own state government. The law merely requires that Keyes become a resident by election day. If Dr. Keyes can meet that requirement, as he surely can, then federalism is not formally breached at all. After this election, if the people of Illinois determine that they would like to place a greater premium on having a candidate with long term ties to the state, then they will be free to do that. There is no end run. There is no court action circumventing federalism. There is the law of Illinois which is being fully respected by Keyes' status as the party's nominee.

Second, let's consider the claim that Keyes can't win. As Greg Blankenship and Mike Van Winkle of Obamatruthsquad.com have pointed out, Barack Obama lost a congressional race a mere four years ago and rose to the top of this year's Democratic primary heap only through the implosion of Blair Hull's candidacy. While he burnished his reputation with a successful speech at the Democratic National Convention, he remains vulnerable to a strong campaign. Keyes is not forced to rely solely on his trademark weapon of verbal bombast in this race. Obama has a liberal record that can be exposed and repeatedly referenced. Giving up on this race is not the right thing to do. This seat belongs to a Republican in a state that has elected Republican office holders to statewide offices in the recent past. There is little reason to fly the white flag at the tail end of summer.

The third issue -- the notion that Keyes is somehow a man not worthy of respect or support -- is simply disturbing because it displays the astonishing lack of solidarity displayed by many GOP types, like Mike Murphy. It would be one thing if some top-level Republicans have personal problems with Keyes (which seems to be the case with Murphy and some others), but for them to go on record and provide ammunition for the other side is nearly unforgivable. After all, Alan Keyes is absolutely in line with the ideological positions of the party. He is a small government, pro-life, free market, pro-U.S. sovereignty conservative. He is the best orator in either party. His public service record is unblemished. What can possibly be the upside of knocking him as he begins his candidacy?

Despite the fact that Democrats don't comprehend many important points of governing and are in a rush to emulate the failing European model of big welfare payments and small defense budgets, they do understand one thing. In order to maintain a governing coalition, supporting your friends is important. Despite repeated calls for Democrats to disassociate themselves from a truly insane individual, who actually gives aid and comfort to enemies of the United States (yes, I'm talking about Michael "Fidel" Moore), the Donkeys just embrace the multi-millionaire proletarian more closely. The Democrats stick together like three-day old grits because they care more about winning elections than proving how bright they are.

Alan Keyes has been willing to step into a low percentage mess in Illinois. He has endlessly stumped across the nation for the pro-life cause. No matter how obsessed some commentators are with his color, his supporters have always loved him for his talent and commitment, rather than the darkness of his skin or the texture of his hair. It's just possible the Illinois GOP saw the same qualities in Alan Keyes that many of his supporters see. Alan Keyes is a man who doesn't triangulate, doesn't bow before anyone this side of God, and knows exactly what he wants to say. Maybe Illinois Republicans know that when everything has collapsed around you, taking a chance on a dream is not such a bad idea.

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About the Author

Hunter Baker is associate dean of arts and sciences and associate professor of political science at Union University. He is the author of The End of Secularism and winner of the 2011 Michael Novak Award. His personal website is www.hunterbaker.wordpress.com.