Four years ago, Alan Keyes told his fellow conservatives to "shove it" when they asked him to run against Hillary Rodham Clinton for U.S. Senate in New York.
At the time, Keyes was mired in a neck-and-neck race for last place in the Republican presidential primary and couldn't be bothered with such an impractical ideal. Besides, the offer stunk of tokenism and a transparent stab at affirmative action, two things he's always been against whenever it was convenient.
"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," Keyes told the frat boys at Fox News on March 17, 2000. "So I certainly wouldn't imitate it."
Well, of course not. Such a move would be deeply cynical and a betrayal of everything a principled conservative has ever stood for. Let the Hillarys of the world engage in carpetbagger behavior.
As for Alan Keyes, he would never engage in a quixotic misadventure for its own sake. He's a serious man who, despite having never won an elected office, was black enough to talk himself into the Republican presidential primaries twice.
Keyes was such a smooth campaigner that he never had to resort to anything as "discredited" as affirmative action to get Republicans not to vote for him. His knack for mounting losing campaigns despite soaring, reactionary rhetoric became evident after two bids for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.
After two forgettable runs for the presidency, Keyes quickly settled into his role as the conservative Al Sharpton. While Jesse Jackson actually won millions of votes in his party's primaries, Keyes perfected the fine art of filling halls with true believers who never voted for him.
Fortunately for the Republican Party, Alan Keyes is the one black guy in American politics who can always be counted on to take an insult the right way. Because Republicans don't engage in racial politics like the Democrats, every encouragement to run for office comes from a place of deep sincerity.
These days as the Barack Obama express rolls into the station in the U.S. Senate race in Illinois, Alan Keyes stands poised to answer his party's call for one final, humiliating suicide mission. After scouring Illinois for a right-wing homeboy or even a reasonably conservative 'round-the-way girl' to run against Obama, the Republicans have decided to outsource the job to a four-time loser from Maryland.
What does it say about the Illinois Republican Party that it can't find a local pol or celebrity itching to get slaughtered by Obama? Why didn't they offer the slot to former deputy drug czar Andrea Grubb Barthwell, a black Republican from Illinois? Isn't she crazy enough?
Because Alan Keyes is such a principled man, he'll have no choice but to refuse the Republicans' condescending overture. After all, to run for an office in a state he's never slept in would make him as much a carpetbagger as Hillary Clinton, right?
The Illinois Republican Party's desperation illustrates its failure of imagination. This might be a good time to remind Al Sharpton that he owes the Republicans a favor for partially financing his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in the primaries. Conceivably, he could retire his "debt" by running openly as a Republican. That would give the Republicans the "battle of the very verbal black guys" they desperately crave.
But why limit the search for a Senate candidate to button-down Negroes who graduated from Harvard? What about native Chicagoan and reformed sex addict R. Kelly? What about the Wu Tang Clan's Ol' Dirty Bastard? Now he can conjugate a verb when he wants to. A prime-time speech by Ol' Dirty at the Republican National Convention would be the talk of America.
Meanwhile, Alan Keyes should tell Illinois Republicans he's tired of being disrespected. Is he forever doomed to be the black guy the party turns to whenever it realizes it doesn't have a chance in hell of recruiting Bill Cosby?
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