MY ESSAY berating the Illinois Republican party for enlisting Alan Keyes as their Senate candidate has generated a hefty pile of emails from Keyes's many cyber-fans. Since the letters all ask the same questions or make the same points, I thought a brief response was due. The missives fall into two categories. The first goes something like, "Hey Wise guy, we get the fact that you can't stand AMBASSADOR Keyes, but you didn't give us one single legitimate reason why it is a bad idea for him to be the Republican candidate in Illinois."
Dear Respect the One Former Office Alan Keyes Held,
I thought the Keyes weakness is painfully obvious, but here goes: The job of a political candidate is to attract people to a party's political philosophy and bring victory to the party on Election Day. In two U.S. Senate races and two presidential campaigns, Alan Keyes has done the exact opposite: shown a great ability to stampede voters away from his candidacy like a herd of panicking animals fleeing a huge volcanic eruption. Even Keyes' cable TV chat show, with its unforgettably Orwellian title, Alan Keyes Is Making Sense was abruptly cancelled for low ratings. When voters listen to a successful candidate they get a strong feeling that this person can do the job and make life better. When voters listen to Alan Keyes, they get the perception, "wow, this guy is stone cold nuts" and they run home to hide their children. We Republicans are the free market party, so look to Keyes's prior history in elections and trust the market.
My larger point is this: the desperate Illinois GOP chose Keyes not because he is a serious or legitimate candidate, but because he is black. Watching my party debase a Senate nomination with such a cynical and stupid move embarrasses me as a proud Republican.
THE SECOND CATEGORY of email, like Keyes, has a spicy Old Testament flavor:
"Dear Secular Satan, you and your godless pals at the NY Times don't get it. Alan Keyes is a beacon of moral clarity in a time when dark forces portend a holocaust upon the innocent unborn. Trash like your so-called article doesn't belong in The Weekly Standard. It is an honor and credit to the GOP that Amb. Keyes is running with such great courage and . . ." etc, etc.
I agree, opposing abortion with great rhetorical clarity is indeed Keyes's keystone issue. The dilemma is Keyes hails from in the Victory Through Superior Decibels wing of the pro-life movement. Closely linked to the Victory Through Shocking Fetus Pictures faction, this view holds that you win the abortion argument by beating the other side, and all others, over their figurative heads until they finally submit. I think that approach only helps pro-abortion activists isolate and vilify pro-lifers. It moves the cause backwards, not forwards.
Keyes is only two days into his campaign, and he already has invoked "God" as the subject of many a campaign sentence. We'll see how the happy sinners of Chicago respond.
Mike Murphy is a political and media consultant.