Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Why Alan Keyes?

The Illinois Republican leadership, and Dennis Hastert in particular, are lining up behind Alan Keyes as the GOP candidate to oppose Barack Obama for Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat. Why?

Not because they think that Keyes would be a good representative for Illinois.
Keyes lives in Maryland and has no connections to Illinois.

Not because they think that Keyes will defeat Obama in November.
Obama is riding high in the polls and his stellar keynote performance at the Democratic National Convention has only increased his appeal to Illinoisans of both parties.

Not because they think that Keyes will help Republican candidates further down the ticket.
No one in their right mind thinks that Alan Keyes will help get out the vote for GOP candidates downstate.

Then why?

To stop Barack Obama.

No, not at the Senate level. The GOP clearly indicated that it has written off that Senate seat when it proposed a carpet bagger like Keyes as its candidate. Instead, the Republican leadership in Washington have recognized that Obama may be the future of the Democratic party and have decided to use a Keyes candidacy to thwart Obama’s political ascension.

As the Republican candidate for the Senate, Keyes would be entitled to debate Obama. But for Keyes and the Republicans, the function of the debate would not be to put forth their ideas and attempt to sway Illinois voters. The election is unwinnable for the Republicans and they recognize that.

Instead, Keyes would attempt to use his considerable rhetorical abilities – the man is repeatedly described as “the winner” of the Republican presidential debates – solely to back Obama into a corner or to make him slip-up. Keyes role in the debate would be merely to elicit sound-bites that could be mischaracterized and taken out of context. Keyes would win the debate, not by gaining Illinois votes, but by wounding Obama.

While such a cynical ploy would be utterly transparent and a complete disaster if the candidate had any interest in winning the election at hand, but that is no longer the goal of the Republican party. They know they can’t beat Barack Obama in this Senate race. But they can use this Senate race to lay the groundwork for attacking Obama in the future.

Twelve years from now the people of Illinois may still remember that Alan Keyes was brought into the state to use the debates to attack and defame Barack Obama, but will the nation at large?

Will voters across the nation know the origin of a quote taken out of context by FoxNews?
Will they know that the twelve year old statements were made during a “debate” where one party’s only goal was to mischaracterizes his opponent’s position?
Will they know that the candidacy of his opponent was merely a cynical ploy to lay the foundation of a smear campaign against Obama?

All of the above is mere speculation, but it is the only explanation I can muster for the sudden high-level support of Alan Keyes as Republican candidate for the Senate from Illinois.

UPDATE: Jeffrey Dubner of the The American Prospect Online
Beyond name recognition and a monomaniacal candidate happy for a soapbox even in the face of certain defeat, Illinois Republicans have found a candidate who can attack Obama in ways a white candidate could not. Keyes has a long history of going after Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and other outspoken black Democrats. *** In Keyes, the Republican leadership may have found a candidate who will relentlessly pursue Obama, who can drag him into what will seem like intra-racial warfare, and who -- most importantly -- can be disavowed as an idiosyncracy entitled to his own views. I'm beginning to think they made the right choice.

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