Alan Keyes has upset the liberal game plan to crown Illinois State Rep. Barack Obama, a Democrat, as the new leader of blacks in America. Democratic U.S. Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York like Obama because he imitates their votes, but Americans like Keyes because he is straightforward about issues we care about.
The Keyes-Obama race for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois, being vacated by Republican Sen. Peter A. Fitzgerald, reminds locals of a similar contest in 1950. Then, a conservative Republican traveled the Land of Lincoln and toppled one of the most powerful liberals of the time, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Scott Lucas.
The victor in that race, former Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen, a Republican, played to the grass roots rather than to the media. His upset showed that voters were ready to break with New Deal liberalism and join the Republican landslide in 1952.
Dirksen, the greatest orator of his time, won because he articulated public opposition to the follies of the Democratic administration of President Harry S. Truman. Dirksen was equally persuasive, whether he was negotiating with a small group over an arcane section of legislation or declaiming broad themes without a microphone to voters assembled on southern Illinois hillsides.
This year, Illinois voters have the opportunity to hear Keyes, perhaps the greatest orator of our time and a man with a fund of knowledge about issues to match his eloquence. His biggest obstacle is neither that he recently moved to Illinois from his home in Massachusetts, nor that he is black, but that the media have already anointed Obama as the winner after viciously destroying his other opponents.
Obama had demanded six debates with his previous Republican opponent, Jack Ryan, a businessman unaccustomed to political argument. Reminding us of history's famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, Obama confidently said the people of Illinois are owed these debates because they deserve more than packaged television ads and rehearsed sound bites.
Now that the Illinois GOP has replaced Ryan with Keyes as its nominee, Obama wants only two or three debates. Did the history of the Lincoln-Douglas debates change between the time of Ryan's resignation and Keyes' nomination?
The media were touting Obama's Harvard degree, but Keyes's Harvard doctorate is more accomplished than Obama's law degree. Besides, we already have too many liberal lawyers, such as U.S. Sens. John F. Kerry and John Edwards, running the Democratic Party for the benefit of the trial lawyers.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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