Alan Keyes for Senator

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Republicans in Illinois have just announced that they've asked Alan Keyes to run for Senate against Barrack "pretend I'm a moderate even though my voting record looks like democratic socialism" Obama. Now I wish I could be voting in Illinois (though I'll take great pleasure in casting my vote against Schumer). I'd vote for Keyes over almost anyone. I already have. I voted for him in the 2000 primary against Bush and McCain, and I really like Bush. I'd love to watch that debate. He'll hold Obama to all his claims about "one America" and taking responsibility. I'm fairly confident that there's never been a Senate race before with a black candidate from each party. It could be a hard race for Keyes to win, but he's faced greater odds before, and it could be great fun to watch.

Update: Wink has pointed out an unfairness to Obama in my description of him ("pretend I'm a moderate even though my voting record looks like democratic socialism"). He's right. It would be more accurate to say Barrack "the democratic socialist with some conservative social hopes". My point was not about him or to complain about how he frames himself. I really like the conservative emphasis in his speech. I just don't want people to conclude that he's conservative or moderate in any way in terms of the policies he supports. My intent was more in response to moderates who see him as a moderate than it was to him. He isn't really a moderate at all. He's a mixture of the standard democratic socialism of someone like Dick Gephardt with the more conservative social emphasis shared by liberals like Bill Cosby and moderates like John McWhorter (and compassionate conservatives like George Bush, for that matter). The difference between Obama and McWhorter is primarily in McWhorter's agreement with some economic or social libertarianism and Obama's insistence on policies that look much more like the democratic socialism of much of Western Europe (and to some extent Canada). That doesn't make him a moderate, in my view. It makes him a political liberal with some conservative moral views (the opposite of most libertarians, who tend to have liberal moral views but support conservative economic and some conservative social policies).

15 Comments

I'm a fan of Keyes as well, but the World Mag Blog is reporting that Keyes lives in Maryland and once criticized Hillary Clinton for running in a state she didn't live in. Your typical politician probably wouldn't be above making such a hypocritical move, but it has always been my impression that Keyes is not your typical politician. I hope he doesn't run.

Right. When I wrote this, I didn't realize two facts. He's not from Illinois, and he criticized Hillary Clinton when she did the same thing. Presumably, that's why he's decided to think it over for a few days to see if he thinks he can do this consistently with his view of a good federalist system. At the time Hillary did it, he didn't think she really could.

I don't think it's fair to insist that he'd be a hypocrite for doing this, though. It's possible that he might change his mind. Perhaps the urgency of the situation might lead him to understand something differently and declare that Hillary wasn't violating the principles of fedaeralism. If so, he should apologize for his past statements, of course. Perhaps instead he will see something different about the two situations. Then he would need to explain what that is, of course. I don't think Keyes would be the type to do either of these disingenuously, but even if he could come up with something along either lines he'd face the criticisms of those who don't understand his reasoning who will unfairly consider him a hypocrite.

The thing I want to insist here is that such reasoning goes against any politician who gets convinced of a different view. That's not necessarily hypocrisy. If the motive is purely personal gain, and the reasoning is pretty lame, you can suspect that. In this case, I don't expect that to happen. If Keyes can't see this as consistent with his federalist principles, he just won't do it. Unfortunately, that's exactly what I expect to happen. He was so strong on the principle of not voting for someone for pragmatic reasons that he was telling conservatives not to vote for Arnold Schwarzeneggar, even if it meant a Democrat would win. Principle is everything for him.

Yes, I think you're right. It would be unfair to automatically brand him a hypocrite if he runs, given the possibility of a sincere change of mind.

Another possible justification for Keyes' running after criticizing Hillary: his party essentially drafted him.

While Mrs. Clinton set her eyes on the New York senate seat early and rallied (and in some cases bullied) the party behind her, Keyes has been prevailed upon by his party to take on a candidate who would probably have otherwise run unopposed.

The Illinois GOP was in a disasterous situation, and my guess is that Keyes will argue that providing a viable opponent in the Illinois race is so important to the democratic proccess that it outweighs the negative of "carpetbagging."

I had the exciting privilege of interviewing Keyes at his home in Maryland last year, and found him to be the most impressive politician I've ever met.

But he does staunchly support the national sales tax, Jeremy (Pierce). So you might want to rethink your support... ;-)

Presidents have more influence than senators with the veto, including the line item veto (not that Bush has ever used it) and the ability to control a whole branch of the government. One more senator among 100 who supports a national sales tax isn't as bad as a president who does so. In both cases, it also depends on whether there's a way to exempt people with a low enough income. Hastert's proposed policy doesn't set the limit high enough for my tastes.

You also have to keep in mind that one of these things that attracts me to Bush so strongly is what he does on taxes, so this wouldn't just add a negative to balance out some positives. It would remove one of the major positives. I didn't say it would force me not to vote for him, anyway. I just said it might lead me not to if he were to endorse it.

The explanation you're giving does explain a morally significant difference between Hillary and Keyes. The question is whether it's different enough to explain his statement that he'd never do such a thing. I'll wait to see what his own response on Sunday is going to be before I form an opinion on that.

Maybe I'm too cynical, but I don't expect there to be any good reason forthcoming from Keyes that would erase his apparent hypocrisy here. Though he's certainly in many ways -- some of them admirable -- an unusual politician, I think of him as enough of a politician to rip an opponent for something just because that's the politically advantageous thing to do, even though he would do exactly the same thing.

We'll have to see. I've read what I can in the Chicago Tribune on-line, and what I've seen seems to suggest that he's offering no good reasons for this sudden change of heart. The Aug. 5 story, "GOP Wants Keyes" actually quotes him on the issue. Here's what they have:

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"I do not take it for granted that it's a good idea to parachute into a state and go into a Senate race," he said before meeting the Republican leaders. "As a matter of principle, I don't think it's a good idea."
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Maybe he had more to say that didn't make it into the paper. But if that's it, one has to be disappointed. When it's potentially *him* "parachuting" into a state, it's just this super-weak stuff about one can't take it for granted that it's a good idea. But when it was a political opponent of his (Clinton), we got the attack-mode rhetoric Keyes is so well known for: "I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there. So I certainly wouldn't imitate it." Maybe he'll come up with some differentiation between Clinton's situation & his. But right now, the most relevant difference is that Clinton established residency in NY at a time much earier, relative to her initial election, than Keyes will be doing in Illinois -- a difference, of course, that would make Keyes's a *worse* case of parachuting. What it looks like he's moving toward to explain the sudden switch is to rachet up the over-heated attack rhetoric against his new opponent & claim that his parachuting in is necessary because his opponent is just so awful that, sigh, it had to be done. We've got this, from today's Chicago Tribune:

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At a press conference, Keyes, who is from Maryland, took a significant amount of time explaining why he was deciding to parachute into Illinois to run. One of the biggest reasons, he said, was because of Obama's support for abortion rights, especially so-called partial-birth abortions.

"Barack Obama abandons the principles of our Declaration (of Independence) and destroys the foundation of our national union," Keyes said.

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Well, then, of course he has to everything possible to help out. It's an emergency. The very foundation of our nation is at stake!

I would have thought Hillary's premeditated decision to do this would be worse than Keyes's being asked by someone else in what they consider desperate straits.

I very much doubt that your reconstruction in the last part is correct. Keyes feels very strongly about abortion, but he doesn't think the foundation of our national union has anything to do with that issue. He does think those who tend toward democratic socialism, as Obama does (his voting record is much like Dick Gephardt), create problems with the basis of our country, so I'd much more expect those comments were taken out of context and placed next to each other either accidentally or to mislead.

Update: Here, presumably -- but who can be sure? -- unedited is Keyes's direct response to the charge we've been discussing (from the CNN web site). Note: He says his situation is different from Clinton's because he (Keyes) is responding to a crisis. And why is it a crisis? He was asked to run. He strongly hints that what makes this a crisis is that the IL-Reps are w/o a candidate. But what he also explicitly says is that Obama's views on abortion etc. make this a crisis -- apparently, one that can be compared with 9/11. Once again (what's new?) Keyes is facing yet another opponent who is not only mistaken about this or that, but who would undermine the very fabric of our nation!

CROWLEY: Mr. Keyes ... you criticized Hillary Clinton for going to New York, and we have to at least discuss the carpetbagger issue. You have said, look, I don't know what the issues are in Illinois, I'm going to listen. But is that ... this close to an election, really a bumper sticker you can run on?

KEYES: Well, I think I have addressed the issue of the very deep differences between what I am doing and Hillary Clinton. She used the state of New York as a platform for her own personal ambition.

I had no thought of coming to Illinois to run until the people here in the state party decided there was a need. Just as people faced with a flood, or people in the case of 9/11, would call on folks, firefighters and others to help them deal with the crisis that they were faced with.

The people in Illinois have called on me to help deal with what they regard as a crisis. But from the point of view of my own personal principles, I believe in federalism. And I had to think this through based on my respect for the principle of state sovereignty.

But I think when you have a candidate like Barack Obama who has turned his back on the principles of our national union, you have to stand in defense of those principles just as Lincoln did in the run-up to the Civil War. He understood that our respect for state sovereignty must be limited by our commitment to defending the principles of our national union. And that's what I am doing.

And I am doing it on behalf of Illinoisans who deeply believe that we should not abandon those principles, on abortion, on our respect for traditional marriage, on our respect for true self-government as the basis of our approach to education and to our economy. These are folks who have stood with me over the years, who have seen me as someone who speaks for their hearts and now I will be offering them a choice in Illinois.

He doesn't say anything about whether the severity of this crisis is anything like the severity of 9/11. The analogy is between going outside the city for help in that crisis and going outside the state in this case, with both being situations when the people within the city/state aren't enough to deal with the crisis adequately. Of course, if a fetus is a person, then abortion is a much graver tragedy than 9/11, perhaps even from terrorism in general.

I don't think the crisis is national, though, not from these comments. It seems more as if the crisis is that these are important issues with a need for someone representing what he sees as an important segment of Illinois not being represented on them. The crisis is therefore in the lack of a viable Illinois Republican to run against Obama. This is pretty much what I've been expecting him to say.

He doesn't say anything about whether the severity of this crisis is anything like the severity of 9/11.

OK. What he said was this:

I had no thought of coming to Illinois to run until the people here in the state party decided there was a need. Just as people faced with a flood, or people in the case of 9/11, would call on folks, firefighters and others to help them deal with the crisis that they were faced with.

He draws the comparison, but doesn't say that the point of his comparison has to do with the severity of the crisis, but nor does he specify what you speculate is the point of the analogy: simply that the people inside were incapable of handling it. What he goes on to say in what immediately follows is stressing how important the issue is, given that Obama's positions abandon the very "principles of our national union." So one might be tempted to think that he does mean to be comparing them as to their severity -- not saying that they're equally bad, but that they are both very severe crises, the second one severe enough to justify his acting against his "federalist" principles. But even that much is at most only hinted at as part of the point of the 9/11 comparison. That's why all I felt safe in saying, and therefore all I said, was not that he compared the two in terms of severity, but just that he compared them.

But in any case, whatever is going on with the 9/11 comparison, the important point is that he has taken to appealing to how dangerous Obama's views are as a part of his justification for parachuting into the race...

Alternative scenario: Suppose that when asked if he would join the New York senate race to oppose Clinton, Keyes had simply said something like this: "I don't think it's generally a good idea for a state to be represented by an outsider. So I think Clinton is wrong to run there, and I certainly won't follow her in doing so." Then when he decided now to run in Illinois, all he would have to say is something like: "Look, I still think it's generally a bad idea for a state to be represented by an outsider. But this is a very unusual situation, and I think the voters of Illinois should have a viable alternative to Obama. I have differences with Obama on some issues I feel are very important, and I have the national stature to stand up to Obama, so I think I can provide that viable alternative. So, though it's not generally a good idea for a state to be represented by an outsider, under these circumstances, I certainly think it's justified for me to run."

I'd have no problem with that. (I'd like to think nobody would have a problem with that, but given how politics seems to mess with people's sensibilities, I'm sure some still would.)

But this is Alan Keyes we're dealing with, so the actual scenario is not the above, but a Keyed-up version of it. Keyes can't just say that he disagrees with Clinton's decision or that he thinks it's wrong. Oh, no. He "deeply resents" what she is doing. Well, then, the grounds for this deep resentment can't just be that he thinks it's a bad idea for a state to be represented by an outsider. She has to be violating some important principle of our democracy. How about federalism? So what we actually get is: "I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there. So I certainly wouldn't imitate it."

That ratcheting up of the rhetoric is already suspicious to me, even absent any later apparent about-face. I tend to agree with the modest thought that it's generally a bad idea for a state to be represented by an outsider. But, beyond that, a violation of some sacred principle of federalism? Clinton, unlike Keyes, established residency in her target state well in advance of the election. At the point in time analogous to the present in the Keyes situation, she had been touring the state for a long time, talking to New Yorkers about the issues -- something which Keyes now says he will start to do with the people of Illinois. She still struck me as an outsider to New York, so I thought the modest thought still applied to her -- almost with full force, because I wasn't so impressed by her quick attempt to become a New Yorker. But I would have thought that what federalism called for was not that a candidate have resided in New York for some period of time longer than Clinton had (whatever period of time Alan Keyes deems appropriate), but rather that the state of New York set the residency requirement. And of course, Clinton satisfied the residency requirement set by the state of New York -- though not, apparently, what the New York outsider Alan Keyes deemed appropriate. So this doesn't look to me any violation of an important federalist principle, but just of the modest, though sensible, thought that it's best for states not to be represented by outsiders.

Anyway, fast-forwarding to the very recent past, having come down so hard & in such a Keyes-dramatic fashion on Clinton, the justification I assign Keyes for parachuting into the Illinois race in my alternative scenario doesn't seem sufficient. So in the actual scenario, that gets all Keyed-up as well. We're not just violating some generally good idea, but some vital principle of federalism. So, beyond the justification of the alternative scenario (which is based on some of the justification Keyes actually has given) we also get the "crisis" raised by Obama's positions which are no longer just points of important disagreement, or bad ideas, or mistakes, but which now undermine the very "principles of our national union." (And sadly, the rhetoric now turns even uglier, with Keyes labelling Obama's positions "the slaveholder's position.") And, turning back to Clinton episode, Keyes now sees fit to declare as fact what Clinton's motivation was; this from the CNN site: "He bristled at comparisons to Clinton, whom he said picked New York 'as a vehicle for her ambition,' and said he had rejected previous calls to run for office based simply 'on personal ambition and opportunity.'� Now, I suspect Keyes's speculation about Clinton's motives might be right. I also suspect similar motivations behind his new move. But though I'm only posting comments to a blog, I would not state as fact that those are his motivations, but would label my suspicions as such. But then, *I'm* not a reliable mind-reader.

So, to my view, this is all rooted in typical Keyes demonization of the opposition. I would hope that anyone who has followed Keyes's career at all closely would agree that he has that disturbing tendency. I fear that the incendiary rhetoric has only just begun. I hope I'm wrong.

Mr. Keyes,

I had intended to vote for you here in Illinois, however your comments on gays is just over the top for me. I just won't vote at all.

Kenneth and Mary Koehn

I don't think Alan Keyes reads my blog, so you're going to have to complain to him somewhere else. Sorry.

You're probably right, Jeremy, but don't be too sure. I just googled "Alan Keyes" (with the quotation marks around it), and while your site isn't a top result for that, the 106th (as of right now, as I write) entry is to this very post of yours. I myself occasionally google my own name -- it's a pretty good way of checking what's been written about some of my philosophical work, including criticisms that should be responded to, that may have otherwise escaped my notice. I set the google to give 100 results at a time, & it's easy to very quickly browse what's out there. I have gone more than 100 entries in on some occasions. So maybe Keyes, or someone who works for him, has taken a look. Who knows?

On the Koehns' comment: My father is a Republican in Illinois, and he has just told me that he is going to vote for a Democrat (Obama) for the first time in his whole life! (Well, at least for national office: My Dad suspects he's voted for dems in some local elections.) So he is taking it even further than the Koehns are: It's not enough just to abstain, my Dad feels compelled to vote against Keyes, even though, as he fully realizes, Obama's views are way too liberal for him. So, if nothing else good comes from Keyes's campaign, he's at least provided for some very rare political common ground between a father & his son.

3 comments up, I ended my comment with the words "I fear that the incendiary rhetoric has only just begun. I hope I'm wrong." My fear was based on Keyes's past history of consistently using such rhetoric in demonizing opponents (& my hope was completely w/o foundation). If a story in today's Chicago Tribune is accurate, such rhetoric doesn't just naturally come out of Keyes's mouth, but it's part of his plan to shock with inflammatory comments. I'll paste a couple of paragraphs of the story below. The sources are unnamed, and since many Ill-Reps are very strongly opposed to Keyes, take it with even more than the usual grain of salt. But it's extremely believable, since it explains so much of Keyes's past verbal behavior so well.

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Declaring that his campaign strategy is dependent on controversy, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes told the state's top GOP donors at a recent closed-door meeting that he plans to make "inflammatory" comments "every day, every week" until the election, according to several sources at the session.

The sources said Keyes explained that his campaign has been unfolding according to plan and likened it to a war in which lighting the "match" of controversy was needed to ignite grass-roots voters.

"This is a war we're in," one source recounted Keyes as saying. "The way you win wars is that you start fires that will consume the enemy."

Keyes' comments came during a 40-minute address to about 20 leading Republican fundraisers and donors Thursday at the posh Chicago Club. The sources asked not to be identified to prevent additional pre-election controversy within an already divided GOP.

At the session, the sources said, Keyes denied that he has engaged in name-calling in his campaign. But he likened Democratic opponent Barack Obama to a "terrorist" because Obama, a state senator, voted against a legislative proposal pushed by abortion foes, sources said.

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