Keyes stakes presidential bid on moral wake-up call
Two-time contender Alan Keyes rails against abortion - and America's
(Page 2 of 2)
Keyes's candidacy is fueled by his belief that an attitude of permissiveness and a relaxing of societal standards are destroying the American family. These trends, he says, are producing a moral anxiety in America - one that good economic times cannot alleviate.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"If we don't have the ability to establish standards, it's destructive," Keyes says, who is a devout Roman Catholic. He cites homosexuality as an example. "If we can't say homosexuality is wrong," he asks, what about sexual exploitation of children or adulterous marriages?
To reverse what he sees as America's moral slide, Keyes would use the power of the presidential bully pulpit, lean on Hollywood about the content of movies and music, and revise government aid programs that he says encourage irresponsibility. He'd revive the debate over prayer in schools, and, of course, screen nominees for the US Supreme Court according to their views on abortion.
Keyes's anti-abortion message worked to some extent in his 1996 campaign. But this time, with a "new pragmatism" in the Republican field, his continuing emphasis on this issue makes him appealing to a smaller group - even within the most conservative of the fundamentalist voter blocs.
He came in seventh in the Iowa straw poll in August, while Gary Bauer, who is vying with him for the far right wing of the GOP, came in second.
Not only are candidates like Mr. Bauer, Steve Forbes, and Pat Buchanan vehemently anti-abortion, they have wider platforms that attract more voters.
"The problem with Keyes is he has to share his platform ... with others, and one really begins to wonder how long he can keep going," says Ryan Barilleaux, a political scientist at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
In addition to his candidacy in 1996, Keyes ran twice for a US Senate seat in Maryland, in 1988 and 1992.
He made those bids coming out of a stint in the Reagan administration, where he put his doctoral degree in government to use as US ambassador to the UN Social and Economic Council. He also served as an assistant secretary of State for international organization.
Keyes is notably lighter when discussing his personal habits and lifestyle. An admitted product of the TV generation, he watches a variety of programming, including all of the "Star Trek" spin-offs.
A struggle to be 'known'
Despite his high-level government experience, Keyes has failed so far to produce a statistically meaningful following.
"His primary constituency is that small segment of the Republican Party and an even smaller segment of the population who believe abortion is immoral," says Emmett Buell Jr., a political scientist at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.
Keyes blames the media for that - and sees racism behind their noncoverage.
Many political analysts, however, see it differently. "Morrie Taylor [the Independent Party candidate in 1996] got virtually no coverage. It's not that Keyes is black; it's that he's not viable," says Mr. Buell, who followed Keyes during the '96 election cycle.
Buell has come to the conclusion that no matter how low a candidate's poll numbers, he can stay in the race if he's committed.
"This is a phenomenon that our politics has cast up today: Unless you get absolutely crushed, you have this long primary in which you can pretend to be a candidate," Buell says.
But without media attention, suggest those who've been in Keyes's position, life on the campaign trail is like sailing a ship with no wind.
"He's got to get free media or his goose in not just cooked, it's overdone," says John Anderson, who defected from the Republican Party in 1980 to wage an independent presidential campaign. Mr. Anderson enjoyed a wealth of free media after his surprisingly strong showing in the Iowa caucuses that year.
"I don't discredit him for his message or his sincerity. He has every right to get out and do what he's doing," says Anderson. "People who feel very strongly are sustained by the beliefs they espouse."
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society