Did we fight a nuclear war over slavery?

....[T]here are two major moral issues that confront this country today. They both of them are issues of life and death. And they both of them are issues of life and death, not only for the body, but especially for the soul, for the spirit. And that is abortion, in which we kill the body of a child and the soul of its mother, and homosexuality, which is, if we understand it, the weapon--indeed, in some sense I think it is the thermonuclear device--that is aimed at the soul of America. And not just of America as this or that country, but as the representative of the civilization that, in the end, was built upon the insights which were brought to this world by our Savior, Jesus Christ.

-- Alan Keyes, March 29, 1999

While I recently discussed ad hominem attacks (against the Swift Boat vets), the nature of those attacks was on the level of credit checks and personal credibility. No one accused them of being a thermonuclear threat.

It was with great sadness that I saw this depressing news:

Alan Keyes (news - web sites), a two-time presidential candidate who lives in Maryland, announced Sunday that he would accept the Illinois Republican Party's nomination and run for the U.S. Senate.

With less than three months before the election, Keyes acknowledged it would be difficult to beat Barack Obama, 43, the state senator whose speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston gained him national prominence. This is the first U.S. Senate race in history where both candidates from the two major parties are African American, assuring that the Senate will seat its fifth black member ever.

"We do face an uphill battle, there's no doubt," said Keyes, 54, who promotes a Christian philosophy. He accepted the nomination Sunday at a rally in this Chicago suburb.

The battle to fill the seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (news, bio, voting record) would be difficult, said Keyes, who has never won a federal election. If he wins, "the victory is for God," he said.

Would a Keyes victory really be a victory for God?

Or would it be a victory for religious theocracy?

Keyes is no mere conservative, but a very radical thinker, who believes the Constitution is subordinated to the Declaration of Independence, which in turn Keyes believes is subordinated to the Old Testament. (Never mind that the Declaration's author wanted to remove the Old Testament from the Bible! Keyes knows more about Jefferson than Jefferson!)

Trying to pin Keyes down can be a bit difficult (as Alan Dershowitz found in this debate over religious laws). While Keye's web site offers clues about his thinking, what he said in the context of "Catholic law" may be more illustrative as to his view of the founding:

If there is, as we deeply believe, an absolute supreme being who has by his will determined the difference between right and wrong, then it doesn't matter what your opinion is -- what matters is what his will and law are. And according to Catholic teaching, that will and law exclude sexual activity outside of God's plan of procreation. You want to include it? The Catholic doctrine says God excludes it. We don't take a vote on that! Because you can't vote on God's law. He makes it; we don't."
That may be a correct statement of Catholic doctrine, depending on who wrote the laws. But it also appears to be very close to Keyes' view of the Declaration -- which, he claims overrules the Constitition.
[T]he Declaration is more than just an assertion of rights. It also makes a clear statement about the ultimate source of authority which commands respect for those rights. God, the Creator, the author of the laws of nature, is that source.

Thus the effective prerequisite for human rights is respect for God's authority and His eternal laws. This is also the prerequisite for government based on consent, which includes free elections, representation, due process of law, etc.

If we accept the logic of our Declaration of Independence, this reverence for God is not just a matter of religious faith. It is the foundation of justice and citizenship in our Republic. Therefore, our freedom is derived from our respect for law, especially the highest law as embodied in the will of the Creator.

Thus freedom, rightly understood, cannot be confused with mere licentiousness. It first of all involves the duty to respect its own foundations in the laws of nature and nature's God.

Get that? God's laws are the prerequisite for our freedom. Freedom is obedience to God and God's laws. Any guess who gets to do the defining?

For a more chilling, if paranoid view, this left-wing piece quotes Keyes and other "Dominionists" for the proposition that the Constitution is superceded by their view of the Declaration (which of course mandates pure theocracy). It's very wild stuff, and I hope the author is wrong, for I don't like to imagine the Republican Party standing for such nonsense. (In any case, I know a great many Republicans who'd do anything to stop it.)

Out of fairness to the many non-Dominionist Republicans, and to President Bush, it ought to be remembered that Alan Keyes condemned President Bush's appointment of a gay man as a "perverse" act:

.....[A]dvocacy of the homosexual rights agenda [note: he means honest admission of homosexuality, folks!] is disqualifying for any prospective holder of high public office. It is important to review this argument so that we will remember that we are simply not free to follow President Bush in such acts of so-called (and misnamed) "tolerance" unless we are willing to recognize them for what they are -- the direct repudiation of our most important principles.

The movement to achieve public acceptance of the radical homosexual agenda is the most powerful attempt today to prepare the nation to acquiesce in the abandonment of any notion of right and wrong.

.....Respect for the family flows from understanding that the family is the school of personhood -- the natural and divinely ordained basis of our most formative attempts to discern the will of God and our responsibilities to other human beings. Our experience in the family reveals to us the relations of pleasure to virtue, of private good to common good and of liberty to responsibility, that constitute the unchangeable structure of any well ordered and morally fruitful human life. Human reason can discern that God's plan for family and procreation is a plan for the formation of morally excellent human beings and that the subordination of sexual pleasure to the higher goods of fidelity, communion and responsibility is a relation organic to human nature itself.

For these reasons, the assault on the family by agents of the homosexual agenda is not simply the attempt to raise one particular sin to parity with one particular form of virtue. It is the embodiment of the desire to kill in the nest the very possibility of the formation of young people who can distinguish between virtue and vice, responsibility and licentiousness. The dispute over the radical homosexual agenda -- the fight about a redefinition of our understanding of human sexuality -- is also, more fundamentally, about whether we are going to continue to be a people capable of making principled moral judgments at all. If it is "intolerant" to refuse to re-order our common life on the licentious principle of doing whatever we want in sexual matters, it will soon be considered equally "intolerant" to order our common life on the basis of any moral principles whatsoever

If these are the stakes, we should look very carefully at what public figures say and do on the issue of sexual responsibility and sexual conduct. We should apply such scrutiny particularly to those who offer themselves as leaders of the moral conservative cause, or with whom that cause is tempted to align itself. For if we are not careful, we will find ourselves committed to political alliances and strategies that -- whether in the name of "tolerance" or of "pragmatism" or of whatever other buzzword is used -- represent the abandonment of our resolve that there is no compromise of principle possible on the question of the family.

.....Human sexuality is wholly ordered to the marriage-based, two-parent family, and "alternate" forms of human sexual relations have precisely no claim to share in the dignity we accord to the family -- even if we must at times acknowledge the weakness of the flesh and the great difficulty of always living up to the ideal of family life.

By anything approaching this standard, Governor Cellucci's appointment to office by the Bush administration is utterly perverse.

"No compromise." He said that; not I.

Those were Alan Keyes' words in 2001. Three years later, some members of the administration he criticized for "perverse" decisions seem to be supporting his senatorial campaign (which strikes me as certain to fail). Do Republicans really want to stand for the proposition tolerance for homosexuality is a "direct repudiation of our most important principles" and that homosexuals desire "abandonment of any notion of right and wrong?" If so, they're going to lose a lot more than the "gay vote" -- and they deserve to. This is ad ad hominem attack on a group of tax-paying Americans who are neither against American principles nor desire the abandonment of right and wrong. It's shame-based politics at its worst, as homosexuals are defined -- without regard to the merits or accomplishments of any individual -- as inherently evil and wrong.

As Keyes sees things, allowing a homosexual to serve in government is evil because all homosexuals are evil. This position goes well beyond any disagreement over gay marriage, and I am sorry to see it gaining ground in the Republican Party.

While I want to give Bush the benefit of the doubt, I think it's fair to ask what's going on, because at this point I really don't know.

I also see that Keyes endorses fellow theocrat Vernon Robinson, calling him a "forceful advocate of Declaration issues."

Declaration issues? What are they?

If you peruse Robinson's literature as I have, you might think he was talking about a Declaration Against Sodomy.

Don't think the left isn't chortling with glee over this stuff. Right now I am wondering whether the left is assisting (at least indirectly) certain fringe groups gain ascendendancy in the Republican Party. The Democrats benefit enormously, while the Republican Party becomes more and more shrill, and increasingly out of touch with ordinary people.

I think I can say without any exaggeration that ordinary Americans don't think homosexuals are a repudiation of America's most important principles or that they will cause the country to abandon any notion of right and wrong. Many of them have a gay friend or family member. They know gays are not inherently bad people.

And they vote.

While Democrats decry the Keyes choice as "sad," I think they're tickled pink by all this -- as they would have been had Pat Toomey defeated Arlen Specter and been the opponent of moderate Joseph Hoeffel. That didn't happen here, so the Democrats are now doing all they can to support an obscure third party theocrat, James Clymer:

On Monday, Clymer submitted about 36,000 signatures to the Pennsylvania Department of State to gain access to the November ballot. His candidacy, he said, gives voters an alternative because Hoeffel and Specter are "two peas in a pod."

Even some Hoeffel volunteers helped Clymer circulate petitions, which Hoeffel said he did not know about but had no problem with.

"The more the merrier," said Hoeffel, 53, who represents parts of Montgomery County and Philadelphia. "I support the concept of ballot access for any political party... . It will give the conservative wing of the party, which is so unhappy with Arlen Specter, a place to go."

The Specter campaign called it a "dirty trick."

"It is a clear admission that they can't beat Sen. Specter one-on-one," said Christopher Nicholas, his campaign manager.

I know that politics is like sausage, but I worry about the direction of the Republican Party.

And why are the right wing and the left wing so determined to destroy Arlen Specter? Does the left want the Republican Party to move right? Does the right want the Democratic Party to move left? (Is the two party system becoming a "two Moore" system? Michael or Roy?)

None of this is to argue that the anti-constitutionalists (which is what those believing the Declaration trumps the Constitution should be called) don't have the right to speak their views or run for office.

I'm just not sure they could honestly take an oath to "support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

They think it's subordinated to God. And, unfortunately, they mean their view of God, which (as I've argued before) means them.

I haven't said much new here, but I feel pretty strongly that this kind of politics carries the Culture War too far.

Illinois, huh? Is this someone's idea of a sick, Civil War analogy between homosexuality and slavery?

UPDATE: It didn't take long. According to today's Chicago Sun-Times, Alan Keyes says Barack Obama has "broken and rejected" the "principles" of the Declaration -- and "he has taken the slaveholder's position."

On a final note, anyone with the idea that Keyes typifies conservatives or conservatism should read this analysis by David Horowitz:

The slavery metaphor, which has also been used by Gary Bauer, is invoked by Keyes to justify the urgency and primacy of the abortion issue. If slavery was a crime against humanity and a cause worth dividing party and nation over, so is the cause of the unborn. But if Bauer and Keyes are advocating a civil war over the abortion issue, they should say so. If they think it is a cause that would be worth the lives of tens of millions of Americans (which would be the contemporary price of the Civil War)—they should say that too.

If they don't think that, they should stop using the language of moral absolutism to press their case. The only entity they will divide (and conquer) is the Republican Party, burying their own cause in the process. The issue should be one of practical politics and reasonable compromise. Law-abiding women should not be made to live in fear of their own government, or the Republican Party.

But moral hectoring is not merely a style for those who confuse religion and politics, it is the substance of what they believe and why, in the long run, their beliefs are incompatible with a conservative perspective and party. Moral absolutism leads to bigotry and intolerance, which are incompatible with leadership in a pluralistic democracy, and which currently constitute the greatest obstacles to a Republican majority.

Conservatism grows out of the Judeo-Christian view that this world is corrupted and cannot be redeemed without divine intervention. Those who wish to remove sin from the world by human effort alone will be sorely disappointed. Moreover, the effort to do so, borne as it is of human pride, will lead its proponents into sin themselves. (Consider only the social redeemers of the past century, Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, Pol Pot.)

Alan Keyes and conservative bigots like him have taken up arms against what they habitually refer to as the "homosexual agenda"—as though all homosexuals think alike, and as though homosexuality itself is a political agenda. This crusade is what makes others regard their belated and ad hoc gestures of tolerance and compassion ("we hate the sin but love the sinner") as so much political hot air.

Just how big is the Republican tent?

Stay tuned.

posted by Eric on 08.10.04 at 06:06 AM


Extremely interesting _style_ Mr. Keyes has. I totally oppose him.

So, he (like Harry Jaffa and others) believes that the Delaration supercedes the Constitution, and that this Declaration must be interpreted in the light of the Bible (or their favorite parts of it), which al must be forced to obey.

At the other extreme, yet on the same side, are those like Robert Bork and other legal positivists and majoritarians who argue that the Declaration has no legal validity whatsoever and that the Ninth Amendment is but a meaningless "ink blot", that there are no rights but those granted by a legislature.

So, one group says that "sodomy" must be outlawed because God wills it, while the other group says that "sodomy" must be outlawed because the majority (or the loudest minority) wills it. Hmmm....

I believe chronic drug users are in chronic pain.

Keyes says they they are moral failures.

He should look in the mirror. Bigotry is his main card.

M. Simon   ·  August 14, 2004 7:56 AM

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