Another Perspective

An Off-Keyes McCainiac

Go back to the Straight Talk Express, Mike Murphy.

By 8.10.04

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Writing for the Weekly Standard's website yesterday, Mike Murphy dripped scorn all over the Illinois GOP and Alan Keyes. He referred to the move as a "thick-headed Grand Strategy" motivated by the unsophisticated thought, "hmmm, they've got a black candidate who can give one hell of a speech … we need a black candidate who can give a fiery speech." In making this supremely insightful diagnosis, one wonders whether Mike Murphy understands Alan Keyes, the pro-life movement, or conservative Christian voters at all. Ask many members of those groups who their favorite conservative is and they'll say, "Alan Keyes." That's not, "Who's your favorite black conservative?" The Illinois GOP was going to be hard-pressed to find a clearly competitive candidate, why not try somebody who gets core GOP constituencies fired up?

That kind of sense of adventure and willingness to take risks is completely lost on Mr. Murphy, which is a bit surprising since Murphy is the maverick who came up with the brilliant strategy of having John McCain attack evangelical voters in 2000. His ham-handed attempts to paint Bush as an anti-Catholic fundamentalist won McCain a great deal of admiration from the left, but merely confused potential McCain voters who had previously viewed the war hero as a strong Reagan conservative.

But let's go back to Murphy's supposedly trenchant critique of the Keyes candidacy in Illinois. He claims "Keyes will be the perfect foil for Obama to campaign against and the selection of Keyes will seem exactly the shoddy and cynical move that it is." Right on, Murph. Let's trot out unknown representative Steve Whitebread from Suburban County, Illinois, and see how he does against the articulate Mr. Obama. That'll show those Democrats!

Murphy then goes on to gallantly admit that he's no Keyes fan, since his 1996 Presidential primary candidate Lamar Alexander (another big win there, Murphy) almost got caught up in the debacle of Keyes chaining himself to the front door of a television station in the effort to be included in the debate. Alexander showed surprising agility and avoided the scuffle. This, according to Murphy, was the highlight of Alexander's Georgia campaign. I've got news for you, Murphy, that may have been the only highlight of Alexander's campaign. (The flannel shirt thing really kicked butt! Was that your idea?)

In a particularly irritating and pointless jab, Murphy smugly declares, "I'm certain Ambassador Keyes is now busily at work printing up some 'Crazy Times Demand a Crazy Senator' yard signs and oiling his trusty chains for a repeat performance in Chicago this fall." Why would the Weekly Standard run this kind of trash? Weren't Bill Kristol (the Standard's editor) and Alan Keyes good friends at one point? This attack perfectly demonstrates the bizarre need of some Republicans to look good to the liberal establishment. The Dems stand firmly behind the crankiest of cranks, which includes Michael Moore and Howard Dean, but let a conservative take on a strong, populist bent and we've got to bend over backwards crapping on the guy to show how superior we are. Frankly, it's not a particularly flattering pose.

In closing, Murphy laments that Republicans "in the land of Lincoln" didn't know better. Murphy hasn't spent much time looking at the history of Lincoln's career. How many races did Abraham Lincoln lose at a variety of levels before finally winning the Presidency? The land of Lincoln should prove to be the perfect place for Alan Keyes to ply his craft. Illinois gave birth to the surprising political career of one great orator with a cause in his heart. It can do so with another.

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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.