I like Alan Keyes. That doesn’t mean I agree with each and every one of his views, but the man is eloquent, consistent, and—I believe—genuinely cares about improving this country. I have a lot of respect for him.
Keyes, according to his website, worked for 11 years with the U.S. State Department, served in the Foreign Service, was on the staff of the National Security Council, served under President Reagan as ambassador to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, and was an Assistant Secretary of State from 1985 to 1988. He has a PhD in government from Harvard. He ran for the Republican nomination in the 2000 presidential election, and was so darned well-spoken and passionate that he may well have gotten my vote if I felt connected enough with the Republican party to vote in their primary.
You would think, based on everything I’ve just said, that I would be happy to hear that Keyes is running for the Senate. I am not. In fact, his acceptance of the Illinois Republican Party’s efforts to recruit him for one of Illinois’s Senate seats lowers my otherwise-high opinion of him.
You will likely be hearing a lot about the Senate race in Illinois as the election nears, in part because it will be a hotly contested position in a country where the 100-member Senate is nearly split between our two dominant political parties. But, perhaps more attention-getting, it marks the first time in American history where a Senate race will be between two African-Americans. Keyes, the Republican, is up against Democratic Senator (that’s in the state Senate) Barack Obama.
I don’t know half as much about Obama as I know about Keyes, however I do know that he is also well-spoken and intelligent. Looking through his website, he seems to fall pretty well in-line with the basic tenets of the Democratic party. As most readers of my site are aware, I tend to fall more on the Republican side of many issues, so—all other things being equal—I would probably vote for Keyes if I lived in Illinois.
But all other things are not equal. Alan Keyes is not from Illinois.
Article I, Section 3 of the United States Constitution states that No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen. (I wonder which founding father had the great idea of making that last rule into an confusing, ungrammatical double-negative.) So, Alan Keyes—who, last I heard, lived in Maryland—is perfectly within his rights to run in Illinois so long as he transfers his residency before the election.
Senator Hillary Clinton pulled a similar stunt when she ran for Senate in New York in 2000. It was immoral then, and it is immoral now. That Keyes was recruited by the Illinois Republican Party does not justify it and does not make it right. Keyes should have turned down the invitation.
I am going to do two things right now which I would normally never do: I am going to endorse a candidate before both parties have had their national conventions, and I am going to endorse a candidate for an office in a state that is not my own.
I am endorsing Barack Obama for the 2004 Senate race in Illinois.
My endorsement of Obama does not mean that I agree with him on the issues, nor does it mean that I want the Democratic party to gain control of the Senate. I’m endorsing Obama because Illinois should elect somebody from Illinois to represent them in the United States Senate. Each state only gets two Senators, so those two had better have some passing interest in the state they represent.
You are probably wondering why it matters—or, at least, why it matters so much to me that I would endorse somebody in a race halfway across the country from here. Well, I’m sure that the world will go on just fine if Alan Keyes wins in Illinois; after all, the universe hasn’t collapsed because New York elected Senator Clinton in 2000. What I am worried about is the precedent that these races and others like them set. They turn state-level Senate races into show-elections orchestrated with the input and oversight of national political committees for national purposes. How, dare I ask, do the national ambitions of either the Republican or Democratic parties serve Illinois?
Where could this lead? Well, if it continues to be successful, we could start seeing these show-races all over the country. For example, what’s to keep the Republican party from moving Senate candidates with strong campaigning skills from Republican-dominated states to “battleground” states, then filling in the weaker campaigners in states where there’s no doubt who will win? I think your imagination can take you from there—Virginia’s senators won’t be Virginians, California’s won’t be Californians, and so on.
How much does an opportunistic, expert-campaigner Democrat from California know about my needs here in Virginia? How much does an opportunistic, expert-campaigner Republican from Virginia know about Californian issues?
The danger of nationally-orchestrated Senate races is that, if they become common, the Senate wouldn’t really be representative anymore. My Senators sure wouldn’t represent me, and chances are that yours wouldn’t represent you either. They’d all be representing the national interests of their party, and if that’s how we really want it then we should just amend the Constitution and make all 100 Senators elected at a national level. Let’s not play around with a loophole, let’s just open the flood-gates.
Well I, for one, think we should close the loophole entirely. I propose that we amend Article I, Section 3 of the United States Constitution to read: No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and been four Years a Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen. Furthermore, I believe we should amend similar language into Article I, Section 2 (which deals with requirements for members of the House of Representatives) so that they must be inhabitants of their particular districts for two years prior to the election.
I propose these amendments because it is the duty and responsibility of a Senator to represent their state, and it is the duty and responsibility of House members to represent their districts. They are not representatives of their political party, nor are they even representatives of the entire United States. Tom Davis is my congressional representative, and if he were not from Northern Virginia I would not trust him in that position. Senator Warner and Senator Allen are my Senators, and if they were not Virginians I would not trust them in those positions either. Their job is to represent local- and state-level interests in a national context, and they cannot do that without a local- or state-level connection.
It was my fervent hope in 2000 that the people of New York would not trust Hillary Clinton—an outsider—to represent them. They allowed their race to be made into a contest that had more to do with the national interests of the Democratic party than it did with New York, and—much worse—they allowed it to work. In November, it is my fervent hope that the people of Illinois will not trust Alan Keyes—another outsider. As much as I like Keyes, I do not believe that he can represent people he’s only known for the three months leading up to an election. I do not think he can or should represent a state in which he has never lived.
The Constitutional amendments that I propose will not become a reality any time soon (and they probably never will), and both major political parties in this country seem to have lost the ability to police themselves and maintain some level of statesmanship. Thus, it rests entirely on the voters to prevent their local- and state-level races from turning into orchestrated showcases for the national ambitions of the Republican or Democratic parties. I hope the people of Illinois are smart enough to see what is happening, and cast their votes accordingly.