August 16, 2004

CRAZY LIKE MADISON:

Still Crazy After All These Years (John K. Wilson, August 16, 2004, AlterNet)

The new Illinois candidate for the U.S. Senate, conservative Republican Alan Keyes, may be most famous for a liberal act: jumping into a mosh pit while Rage Against the Machine performed, body-surfing the crowd, and exchanging body slams with a spiky-haired teen as a means of getting filmmaker Michael Moore's endorsement for president in 2000. As Moore put it, "We knew Alan Keyes was insane. We just didn't know how insane until that moment."

"Insane" is an adjective that may be tossed around a lot regarding Keyes because he has been saying a lot of kooky things for a long time. Mostly, his extremist ideas have been overlooked. In the 1996 and 2000 Republican presidential contests, no candidate saw Keyes as a threat or wanted to risk criticizing one of the few prominent African-American Republicans around.

Last week, Keyes accepted the Republican nomination to run against the Democratic nominee Barack Obama — and immediately railed against Obama’s support of abortion rights. Abortion is Keyes' number-one issue: He wants a total ban, with an exception only as a "collateral and unintended consequence" of saving a woman's life (not the health of a woman, rape, or incest). In 2002, he said, "This issue alone, which I believe dominates our moral decline as a people, should decide this and every election cycle.” [...]

When it comes to race, Keyes rejects the idea that any black person – except for Alan Keyes – suffers discrimination. He told Larry King in 2000 that if he was the victim of a "driving while black" police stop, he would fault the "black folks out there disproportionately committing certain kinds of crime." [...]

Keyes' extreme views touch on most hot-button social issues, from gay marriage to the separation of church and state.

Gay marriage, Keyes warns, will cause "the destruction of civilizations," and he has equated the "homosexual agenda" as "totalitarianism." In fact, Keyes claims, "Hitler and his supporters were Satanists and homosexuals." To Keyes, "The notion that is involved in homosexuality, the unbridled sort of satisfaction of human passions," leads to totalitarianism, Nazism, and communism. [...]

For Keyes, gay marriage is out. But a marriage of religion and government is in.

He has denounced what he calls "this silly argument" that there must be a separation between church and state. "Entirely a lie" is what he calls this long-standing principle of American government, even claiming that the U.S. Constitution grants states the right to establish churches or impose religious tests on political leaders.

Keyes also advocates the idea of a governor or the president having the authority to disobey a court order he believes violates the Constitution. According to Keyes: "The right response of a chief executive in this state and in this nation, when faced with an order by a court that he conscientiously believes violates the Constitution he is sworn to respect, is to refuse their order!"

If his views on abortion and homosexuality seem outside the mainstream, Keyes' economic ideas may be even stranger. He opposes what he calls "the slave income tax," and he means that term literally: "What do we call it when you work and someone else controls 100 percent of the fruit of your labor? We call it slavery. Therefore, I am not talking in metaphors here." [...]

Keyes urges repeal of the 16th Amendment, which allows for a federal income tax, and instead advocates a 20- to 23-percent national sales tax to replace all federal income and payroll taxes.

But Keyes is no typical free-trade Republican. He denounces international trade pacts such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the North American Free Trade Agreement as socialistic and subversive.

On other issues, he supports removing all limits on campaign contributions and spending; opposes a minimum-wage increase; supports partial privatization of Social Security payroll taxes; and proposes eliminating the Department of Education and using federal money for schools exclusively as vouchers for parents. Evolution should not be taught in schools because it "utterly destroys the foundation for any sense of a transcendent basis for human justice."


Keyes No Laughing Matter (Earl Ofari Hutchinson, August 12, 2004, Pacific News Service)
[K]eyes' nomination is no political joke. He has name recognition, is a polished debater, and has a telegenic presence. With the monster national media hit that Obama got from his Democratic National Convention speech, the mostly idolatrous press that he has enjoyed since then, and a near $10 million war campaign chest, a challenger without the political savvy and name recognition of Keyes would be a lamb led to the slaughter. Keyes' opposition to abortion, gay rights, affirmative action, and his tout of school prayer are classic wedge issues that Republicans are adroit at exploiting. He could bag lots of votes from conservative Republicans in central and downstate Illinois by pushing these views. It will also be tough for Democrats to pound him as an out of state import. He can shoot back, "But what about Hillary." [...]

The Keyes candidacy also poses a dilemma for Democratic presidential contender John Kerry, and potentially a dividend for Bush. Illinois is no lock for the Democrats. It's a highly contested key battleground state. If Obama had faced weak or nonexistent opposition, he would have cakewalked to victory. This would have enabled the top Democrats to free up more money, and exclusively devote their energies into mobilizing support for Kerry. But a hard charge by Keyes at the Senate seat could force Obama and the Democrats to spend more money and time trying to win that seat.

Keyes has been roundly ridiculed for his outspoken and inflexible conservatism. The thinking is that this makes him a political aberration who has no chance of being competitive, let alone winning a race. That's silly, patronizing, and ignores some changing political realties. A July poll by Black Entertainment Television/CBS found that blacks are overwhelmingly hostile to Bush. But it also found that fewer than one out of three blacks are enthusiastic about Kerry. Other polls show that an increasing number of blacks, particularly the younger, call themselves independents, while a not insignificant percentage of blacks say they favor Bush's re-election.

The rare times that Republicans have made a real effort to attract blacks, put money into a black Republican candidate's campaign and delivered on their promise to pump more resources into health care, education, minority business, and education programs, they have loosened the Democrats' stranglehold on the black vote. That happened most notably in the election in 2002 of Lieutenant Governors Michael Steele in Maryland and Jennette Bradley in Ohio. In the July Georgia Senate primary, black Republican Herman Cain made a respectable second place showing by emphasizing conservative Republican social themes.

This does not mean that Keyes will beat Obama. The Democrat has charisma, massive support, and plenty of cash. It does mean that Keyes can make the race interesting; maybe even a real horse race, and that's no laughing matter for the Democrats.


Memo to Mr. Wilson: no Democrat is going to structure his campaign around defending: the Supreme Court; abortion; affirmative action; income taxes; separation of church and state; gay marriage; and free trade.

MORE:
God and the Blue States (Eyal Press, August 13, 2004, The Nation)

At last month's Democratic convention, few words were uttered more frequently than the one that seems to roll most easily off the tongue of George W. Bush: faith. "Let me say it plainly," announced John Kerry in his acceptance speech. "In this campaign, we welcome people of faith." John Edwards thanked his parents, Wallace and Bobbie, for instilling in him an appreciation of "faith" from an early age. Barack Obama declared that Kerry "understands the ideals of community, faith and service," and added, to those who think only Republicans turn to religion for inspiration, "We worship an awesome God in the blue states."

That Democrats are eager to propagate this message is not surprising. The United States is, after all, an astoundingly religious country. And in recent decades, Americans who take their religion seriously have been flocking to the GOP in numbers that have left Democratic strategists alarmed. Back in 1992, voters who told exit pollsters they attend prayer services on a frequent basis supported George H.W. Bush over Bill Clinton by a margin of 14 percent. Eight years later, in 2000, those same voters backed George W. Bush over Al Gore by 20 percent. In the 2002 Congressional elections, the religiously devout also favored Republicans by 20 percent, prompting Trinity College religion professor Mark Silk to observe, "Never before in American history have churches been tied so directly to one political party."

Democrats are determined to narrow this so-called "religion gap," if not to close it, in the coming election. Yet they are well aware that the challenge they face is at once daunting and complex. When several hundred religious leaders, scholars and advocates gathered in a chandelier-lit ballroom in the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC, in early June, the consensus was that the Democrats have an image problem. "Today, there is a growing misperception, fostered by right-wing political and religious leaders, that those who espouse progressive views are inherently antireligious," said John Podesta of the Center for American Progress, the liberal think tank that organized the event. "The purpose of our effort is to remind Americans that there are historic ties between the religious community and progressives."

Part of the reason for the image problem, however, is that Democrats have generally opposed efforts by social conservatives to impose their religious beliefs on other Americans, a stance that often leaves them open to attack as "antireligious"....


Stunning, opposition to religion is seen as anti-religious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 16, 2004 10:41 AM
Comments

What is stunning is that anyone could view "... imposing their religious beliefs on other Americans ..." as being pro-freedom.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 16, 2004 11:51 AM

Your freedom is a function of our religious beliefs.

Posted by: oj at August 16, 2004 12:07 PM

Who imposes their beliefs on others more than the left? It is, after all, "intolerant" and "mean spirited" to disagree with progressives.

Posted by: Tom C, Stamford,Ct. at August 16, 2004 12:30 PM

Tom:

Remember, Jeff doesn't mean there's something wrong with imposing his own irrelgion on people whose Constitution had settled the matter, he means returning to that original agreement is an imposition. It's a one-way street.

Posted by: oj at August 16, 2004 12:41 PM

In the Roman Empire, the Imperial authorities periodically sent Christians to die in the arena for the crime of Atheism -- because Christians denied the Gods of Rome.

Posted by: Ken at August 16, 2004 12:44 PM

Yeah, and you didn't hear them whining about it.

Posted by: oj at August 16, 2004 12:47 PM

Our freedom is the function of material success. If it didn't succeed on a material level, it wouldn't be here to talk about.

Keeping all religious belief out of the public square preserves freedom of belief for everyone.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 16, 2004 3:25 PM

Jeff,
Define "material success." If you're saying that we're free because we're rich, well, I just don't see history bearing that thesis out.

Posted by: Roy Jacobsen at August 16, 2004 4:17 PM

Keyes went around this weekend at the Bud Billiken parade (don't ask) asking blacks if they knew what the number 1 killer of blacks was. He told them abortion.

I really don't see how he can be competitive here. It is entertaining, though.

Posted by: Rick T. at August 16, 2004 4:18 PM

At least Keyes will make the race colorful. Like Al Sharpton in the Dem primaries.

What's he got to lose?

Posted by: Ken at August 16, 2004 7:15 PM

"Define 'material success.' If you're saying that we're free because we're rich, well, I just don't see history bearing that thesis out."

My definition is simple. The most powerful country on the planet is the most materially successful.

And keeping religion out of the public square, thereby allowing its free observance by everyone, seems a considerable part of that success.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 16, 2004 9:13 PM

How is the observance free if it can't happen in public?

Posted by: pj at August 16, 2004 9:16 PM

Jeff:

The public square is rife with religion, from chaplains in Congress and the military, to President led prayer services to government funding of religious institutions, to the Pledge, to our money, etc. But you're right--the fact that with all that public religion we've left secuilarizing Europe in the dust does explain much.

Posted by: oj at August 16, 2004 9:22 PM

PJ:

What is it about, say, prayer, that requires it be done in public?

Here in nearby Hamtramck MI, there was a kerfuffle recently over mosques broadcasting the call to prayer.

The Christians were incensed, and found it very unneighborly when the Muslims cited ringing church bells as a precedent.

I guess their view of religious freedom changed suddenly when their ox was getting gored.

OJ:

The public square is rife with ceremonial obeisances that amount to so much verbal wallpaper, and combined scarcely amount to Deism.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 16, 2004 10:32 PM

Jeff:

The church bells don't ring 5 times a day and they aren't pumped up with loudspeakers. And I seriously doubt that people would have objected if the Muslims played music instead of the muezzin.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 16, 2004 10:42 PM

Jeff:

We need to see that our leaders recognize that they are answerable to a higher power and the moral dictates thereof. That's why an atheist will never win--they aren't bound by anything but their own desires. They're inherently untrustworthy.

Posted by: oj at August 16, 2004 10:53 PM

Jim:

Well that is the problem with religious liberty, isn't it?

You grant an exception to noise laws to one religion, and the next thing you know, all the others want one too.

OJ:

"[Atheists] are inherently untrustworthy."

is as useful, and correct a statement as

"Religionists are inherently intent on sectarian slaughter."

BTW--an atheist politician would be bound by precisely the same thing as a religious one: the voters.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 17, 2004 6:56 AM

Jeff:

The amoral should be kept from power, especially because they'll do whatever voters want.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2004 8:59 AM

Jeff:
We are powerful because we are rich. We can afford the military we have. We are rich because we are free. We are free to work as we will and keep more of what we make than most other countries' citizens.

Power is merely the capstone. Freedom is the foundation.

Posted by: Mikey at August 17, 2004 9:37 AM

OJ:

Oh, like religious politicians don't pander. Puhlease.

Thanks for making my point--our freedom and wealth are purely materialistic. God probably prefers the European approach to caring for the less fortunate, but our way just plain works better.

Too bad, God.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 17, 2004 11:31 AM

No, Jeff, our freedom and wealth are not purely materialistic. We also have the freedom to be religious. Or not. Your choice. We also have the freedom to volunteer - or not - for a large number of civic organizations. Which Americans do. The American Red Cross, Kiwanis, Rotary, Coast Guard Auxiliary. The list goes on and on. The freedom is that "pursuit of happiness" thing, the freedom to pursue material goals, immaterial goals or a combination thereof. Religion is part of the public life of the country. Part of it - not all of it, and the public life would be much poorer if it wasn't allowed to take part.

Posted by: Mikey at August 17, 2004 1:22 PM

Then why is Europe declining?

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2004 1:54 PM

Mikey:

Yes, but that is not the point. The success, or lack thereof, of our society--or any other for that matter--is a wholly material matter. Our society was more successful than, say, Soviet society was.

Perhaps I could lessen the confusion by using the word "fit." Which is really more appropriate, but tends to start the rabid anti-Darwinists hyperventilating.

OJ:

You are a one-note symphony. The problem with a one-note symphony is knowing when you are out of tune.

If the US was instead 50 politically independent units speaking as many different languages, (ceteris paribus) then the collective economic output and military potential would very likely more closely approximate Europe's.

Similarly, if Europe was suddenly to have one language and no internal political divisions, then that could, no matter secularism, only enhance Europe's economic and military potential.

Europe is declining for a whole bunch of reasons. Secularism, or lack thereof, may very well not even figure among them.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 17, 2004 3:17 PM

Jeff: Please bear with me - this is almost as difficult as describing the color blue. The success of our society is shown in its material goods. Okay. But the success of our society is also a non-material matter. Societies are groupings of people. Ours is a grouping of people from everywhere on this planet and it is successful in that there is something in the society that makes them become Americans. I think that thing is called freedom, which allows these individuals to achieve personal material success and personal non-material success. I think that freedom was the essential non-material agent which allowed for the material success to take place, the catalyst of human social development, as it were.

Perhaps you don't beleive there are such things as "non-material success" but forming a civil society out of people from everywhere with vastly different traditions is, in my opinion, an astounding success.

Posted by: Mikey at August 17, 2004 3:34 PM

Jeff:

You have that quite backwards, as we've pointed out numerous times:

http://www.econ.brown.edu/fac/Enrico_Spolaore/Economist.htm

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2004 4:08 PM

Mikey:

You are missing the point. Our social organization is more fit, at the moment, than any other on offer. Fitness is a wholly material consideration, because it is on material grounds societies compete. (If you don't believe that, ask Saddam.)

OJ is famously heterodox for asserting both an omnipotent God, or a semipotent one, depending on the argument at hand.

OK, lets go with semi-potent. That particular God is Allah. Around 800 AD, Allah is thinking he designed things just right. Ooops. Not. Semi-potent Allah really wants things differently, but screwed up.

Our material fitness need have nothing to do with what some semi-potent deity cooked up.

And if the deity is omnipotent, then that deity is no more worthy of worship than Hitler.

OJ:

You are far more analytical than that, so knock off the sloppy argumentation.

Comparing 50 semi-autonomous states with a monolothic entity such as China is at least dishonest.

As is cherry-picking Economist articles. I used to subscribe--they have carried at least several on the extreme usefulness of our particular state of affairs. And you conveniently ignore global competiteveness rankings, as well.

As I have pointed out numerous times.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 17, 2004 5:22 PM

Jeff:

Exactly. In global competitiveness rankings only one large state appears--ours. Were we fifty states we'd dominate such rankings even more. The anti-Federalists were simply ahead of their time.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2004 5:43 PM

"Your freedom is a function of our religious beliefs."

My freedom is a function of my willingness to fight for it.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 17, 2004 6:03 PM

"They're inherently untrustworthy."

Everyone is inherently untrustworthy. That is why we have separation of powers. Do you trust everyone who says "God Bless America"?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 17, 2004 6:05 PM

Robert:

Everyone says that, but no one puts up much of a fight when the time comes.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2004 6:10 PM

Robert:

Yes. To an extraordinary degree liberty depends on trust. As a Christian society we have incredibly high levels of trust in each other. The decline of both Christianity and freedom in Europe is not coincidental.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2004 6:12 PM

OJ:

If we were 50 wholly independent political entities, we collectively would not exist.

If Europe wanted to talk to the US under such circumstances, to whom would they speak?

One might also, in the trust department, note much lower levels of all types of crime in Europe.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 17, 2004 7:45 PM

Talk to them about what?

Crime is, of course, higher in Europe despite more homogenous racial makeup.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2004 8:10 PM

Cite some statistics, please.

Murder would be a good start.

If we were 50 independent political entities, we would be no more capable of projecting military or economic power than the Europeans are now.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 17, 2004 10:50 PM

They still face a far lower murder rate than we do.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 18, 2004 6:05 AM

They're less serious people and less free so they kill each other less.

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 8:33 AM

That is just an airy-fairy assertion.

One could just as easily, and with as much justification, say "They live in a colder and cloudier climate, so they kill each other less."

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 18, 2004 9:53 AM

No, we kill each other more in our colder climes than do the rather torpid tropical peoples.

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 11:18 AM

OJ, so your trust in God-talkers got us Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Great criteria.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 18, 2004 5:14 PM

Clinton was a much better president than the elder Bush and Carter than Ford.

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 5:20 PM

If you're not willing to put up a fight, religion won't save you. In the end you are only free if you choose to pay the price.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 18, 2004 5:24 PM
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