Monday, August 09, 2004

The Keyes Announcement

"We must continue to assert and stand tall to defend the great principles of God's authority and unalienable rights on which this nation is founded," Keyes said. "If, indeed, that land is still Illinois, then I have lived in the Land of Lincoln all my life . . . and I will be proud to call Illinois my home."

Does this mean he owes Illinois taxes too?

Actually, Keyes says that he decided to betray his solemn commitments to federalism, natural law, the ideals of the Founders, the sanctity of life, God's law, and whatnot because of Obama's vote on partial birth abortions. But if that's the case, why didn't he challenge Barbara Mikulski this year in his home state of Maryland? She voted against the partial birth abortion ban. Are Maryland fetuses less a person and less deserving of the advocacy of Alan Keyes than are Illinois fetuses? In fact, Keyes knows that given his past performance in Maryland, he probably couldn't win the primary. Plus, the headline, "Keyes to Run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland" has as much news value as "Plane Lands Safely."

In fact, this episode just shows Keyes to be a fraud, a grandiloquent one, but a fraud nonetheless. As Steve Teles has pointed out, running against Obama puts Keyes into the limelight and boosts his reputation (and speaking fees) with conservative activists.

If I were Obama, I'd debate him 3 times daily until the election. In one debate, there's the off chance that Keyes's meds will kick in and he'll score some points. With lots of debates, interest will quickly die out and Keyes will show himself for the loon that he is.

This also shows that the Illinois GOP establishment, much like their counterparts in California, have fallen into the hands of right-wingers with no sense of or concern for electoral realities. And once you find yourself on that particular slope, it's awfully hard to get back to more sensible ground. Sort of a Gresham's Law of politics--the more a party is dominated by crazed ideologues, the more likely it is that they will drive out moderate candidates and voters. This is particularly an issue in Illinois where there is no party registration, and voters can choose to vote in the primary of either party. If given the choice between Party A with a range of candidates and Party B with a narrow selection of ideologues, most moderate voters will vote Party A's primary, making it increasingly likely that the more extreme candidates will win in Party B. Plus, the increasing likely Kerry-Obama rout in Illinois might just sweep out some moderate Republican state legislators in suburban Chicago, futher tipping the balance toward the conservatives.

In California, only the freak circumstances of the Davis recall allowed a moderate Republican like Schwarzenegger to become governor (he never would have won a GOP primary) and perhaps wrest the state GOP out if its dysfunction. Similar circumstances are much less likely in Illinois.

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