August 11, 2004
What's local? What's national?
Yesterday I read that Arnold Schwarzenegger enjoys the highest approval rating of any California governor since 1975.
This has been much on my mind as I've endeavored to figure out what was "behind the decision" to run Alan Keyes as the Republican senatorial candidate in Illinois.
For what it's worth, I went to the trouble of following this story as it unfolded in the Chicago Tribune, and the results surprised me. A couple of days ago, I thought that "the Republicans" had gone crazy at the national level.
Now I see that it was pretty much a matter of local politics, and I'm feeling naive. I forgot the basic principle that you never look for a complicated explanation when a simple one will do. And never attribute to intelligence or design that which can best be explained by simple human stupidity.
It wasn't Washington calling the shots; it was Rockford:
State Sen. Dave Syverson, a Republican from Rockford who pushed hardest for Keyes to be considered, echoed several other committee members' opinions that if Hillary Clinton can successfully run for senator in New York, Keyes can run in Illinois.It came down to last minute lobbying not by Karl Rove, but by State Senators Steve Rauschenberger (who didn't want to run against Obama) and Dave Syversen (who was generally disgruntled). From the Tribune:
Keyes' entered the race only within the last few days as state Sen. Dave Syverson of Rockford and state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger of Elgin pushed for Keyes' nomination.
If anything, the Keyes selection was a reaction by local conservatives against the national "moderate leadership":
Keyes' decision comes as ideological rifts finally have come to a head between conservatives and moderates within an Illinois Republican Party battered by scandal and struggling to find its vision. That it took nearly six weeks to pick someone to replace March primary winner Jack Ryan on the Nov. 2 ballot--and the machinations the GOP hierarchy went through to come up with Keyes--points to a sharply divided political organization, some Republicans say.
This whole thing may boil down to be a hissy fit thrown by five Illinois conservatives:
Keyes was joined by a veritable who's who of Illinois conservatives, all of whom have long felt neglected by a state Republican Party controlled by social moderates. The announcement provided a reunion event for the "Fab Five," a group of five conservative Illinois state senators first elected in 1992. That group includes former Sen. Patrick O'Malley of Palos Park, Sen. Steve Rauschenberger (R-Elgin), Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) and Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora). The fifth member of the group is U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald of Inverness, whose seat Keyes is seeking.
There it is. Local resentment. Not a plot by Karl Rove. Not an experiment in floating a way-out candidate as a cynical test run.
And what about outgoing Senator Fitzgerald?
Fitzgerald said his No. 1 achievement has been to bring "independent U.S. attorneys to Illinois,'' most notably Patrick Fitzgerald, a nationally ranked prosecutor who has no ties to the Illinois GOP insider establishment that the senator loathes. He is next proudest of throwing up roadblocks to deals for the Defense Department to lease refueling tankers from Chicago-based Boeing and government loan guarantees to the struggling United Airlines, based near Elk Grove Village. Both deals were championed by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), but Fitzgerald will not give the benefit of the doubt to a home state company if he thinks it is a waste of taxpayer money, a philosophy that has put him at odds with his colleagues in the Illinois delegation.Fitzgerald's reasons for vacating his seat are mysterious, and open to speculation:
Fitzgerald's reasons for dropping out are obscure, but some have theorized that he is leaving because his independent-mindedness may have caused the White House to quietly ask him to step down.Hmmmmm......
Clearly, Illinois Republicans are an angry bunch, and I think they've succeeded in making trouble for the Republicans nationally.
In fact, their antics have prompted a surprisingly astute challenge from Jesse Jackson to President Bush:
.....Rev. Jesse Jackson, who is backing Obama, challenged the national Republican Party to prove Keyes' importance by making him a centerpiece of the Republican National Convention, which starts Aug. 30.Jackson obviously knows full well that this wasn't a national decision, and his remarks prove it's local Illinois politics.
Meanwhile, Keyes is sweating, and one of his supporters wiped the sweat from his brow.
He's offering the napkin for sale on Ebay. Buy It Now price? $999.99! (I think that qualifies as sweat equity....)
And if you don't want (or can't afford) Alan Keyes' sweaty napkin, there's always this.
I don't think Barack Obama is sweating. Here's one of his Illinois supporters:
The Republicans are running a man who couldn't win for senator in his own state -- one that is, one might add, trending gently Republican. They're now trying to run him here, in a state that is trending Democratic, where he couldn't reach 10% of the Republican vote in two presidential primaries. The Republicans wanted name recognition to bring attention to their candidate; well, yes, one must concede that they've achieved that much. Of course, the downside to that name recognition is that it's been pretty clearly demonstrated that the Republican voters ... don't actually like him. For some reason, they also seemed to think it was important to "neutralize the race issue" by throwing it into sharp relief -- after all, by noting (repeatedly) that it will be the first time that two African-Americans have ever run against each other for senator from the same state, that manages to thrust the race issue, such as it is, into everyone's face. The problem is, of course, for all the Republicans' insistence that Illinois is a sincerely conservative state, it's actually pretty much moderate. Keyes' stance on most issues is pretty much appalling.Pretty much I'd say.
But I don't think it's fair to blame the RNC, or Bush, or Rove, because if anything this whole affair seems to have been directed not by them but at them.
posted by Eric on 08.11.04 at 09:13 AM
Search the Site
Classics To Go
See more archives here
Old (Blogspot) archives
Why you might get more of what you try to stop
A knee sock jihad might be premature at this time
People Are Not Rational
No Biorobots For Japan
The Thorium Solution
Radiation Detector From A Digital Camera
This war of attrition is driving me bananas!
Attacking Christianity is one thing, but must they butcher geometry?
Are there trashy distinctions in freedom of expression?