I have been wanting to post of the decision of Alan Keyes to jump into the Senate race in Illinois, but I have not had the time. Permit me now a few thoughts.
I think the nomination of Alan Keyes is a good thing for conservatives. Alan Keyes is on the message and he speaks from his heart. Keyes has a great energy about him and is able to fire up the base unlike most politicians. Also, Keyes is willing to speak unashamedly on conservative principles without compromise. He will not shy away from a debate that many people run from and Alan Keyes will speak unpleasant truths to people who need to hear unpleasant truths. Alan Keyes is a walking Conscience of a Conservative.
At the same time, Alan Keyes is a disaster for Republicans in general and conservatives in particular. When Keyes speaks unpleasant truths, he speaks them unpleasantly. He comes across as a fanatic – “someone who will not change his mind and will not change the subject,” as Churchill defined fanatics. Keyes acts like he loves the unpleasant truth. He relishes in his ability to make liberals wince, while at the same time making non-philosophically oriented voters wince. I would venture to say Keyes turns off many more than he turns on.
At present conservatives are portrayed by the media as arrogant, hard hearted, mean spirited, and rude. Keyes is none of those things personally, but he is a parody of all those things publicly. Keyes is pushy in conveying his views – sometimes out of necessity, but more often out of habit. He does not give off compassion; Keyes acts as if the statements he makes are compassionate so why should he exude compassion beyond what he says. He ignores present reality in advancing his cause. Lastly, Keyes is unwilling to compromise. That in and of itself is a great trait for a conservative, but for a politician it is disaster.
A politician who wants to advance the conservative agenda should accept baby steps. Keyes, more often than not, acts as though the conservative movement should take back the country immediately. He rejects slow progress in advance of the conservative agenda, in favor of rapid deconstruction of the current American super state. That forceful objection to current reality turns off most voters. I hate to use a clichéd analogy, but it is very much like a frog in water. Voters can accept slow progress towards a more conservative America. But, throw them in the movement at full advance and they will rightfully rebel in the same way they would at the full advance of a liberal agenda. For reference, see what happened in 1994, when the Clinton administration tried to push a liberal agenda full steam ahead – nationalized healthcare, gays in the military, etc. Without accepting the slow progress of conservative thought, Keyes will come across as a radical caricature of a right wing Republican conservative, which will only play into the media’s willing hand.
I think Keyes is good for conservatives because he is unashamed to be one. But, he will hurt the Republicans and the conservative movement in particular because he is unwilling to play the role he has assigned himself – that of a politician.