Nairobi — Observers, comedians, and the general American public have been having a whale of a time watching the Illinois Republican Party machine stumble about searching for an opponent to run against the newly minted Democratic Party star, Barack Obama, in the race for an open Illinois Senate seat.
Illinois Republicans have finally settled on somebody, and the choice has only added to the impression that Republicans are in far worse trouble than had been thought. They have convinced Alan Keyes, a Marylander and a perennial political contestant and loser (two presidential contests and a race for senator from Maryland) to show up and carry the party's flag in the losing battle.
Keyes' selection, through a process akin to a television reality shows "Who Would Like to Lose Big in an Election", has provided much fodder to comedians such as Bill Maher, an irreverent but easily one of the most perceptive comedians on American television.
He was fired from a broadcast network for daring to argue with the appellation cowardly over what was affixed on the perpetrators of 9/11.
This is what he had to say about Republicans: "They've have been having a lot of trouble over in Illinois finding a Republican candidate to go up against Barack Obama there. People love that guy. Well, they think they have finally found one. He is our old friend, Alan Keyes, the African American firebrand conservative preacher.
The only problem is Keyes lives in Maryland. It's starting to look bad for Republicans. First, they couldn't find Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, they couldn't find weapons in Iraq. Now they can't find a black person in Chicago!"
The New York Times greeted Keyes' selection with one of those tongue in cheek editorials that poked fun at both Keyes and the party that has brought him to this. "In noble tradition of Marquis de Lafayette, the Seven Samurai, Mighty Mouse and Oni-Wan Kenobi, Alan Keyes is leaving home to go to the aid of a pitiable band of outgunned, hopeless supplicants: the Illinois Republican Party," the paper wrote expressing disappointment at the political comedy.
"While this page has expressed hope that Obama would have an opponent this fall, Keyes is not exactly what we had in mind. He did meet the party's minimal qualifications - he has a well-known name and is willing to show up. And he is a polished public speaker. But if the only challenge for Obama is to appear more reasonable than his opponent - who believes that federal income tax is unconstitutional - the bar will not be very high."
Keyes is an entertaining spectacle. A day after he accepted to become a sheep for slaughter for his party, he tore into his rival Obama's views on abortion, calling them rather perplexingly "the slaveholder position". Obama pointed to the comments as an example of something completely awry with Keyes, already fighting the perception he is a carpetbagger, a term similar to political tourist in the Kenyan political context. Barely three months to elections, Keyes is only now establishing residency status in the state he seeks to represent in the Senate.
A radio commentator out of Maryland, Keyes has been a fierce opponent of carpet-bagging, a charge he loved to place at the feet of New York senator Hillary Clinton whom he accused of using the state as a political vehicle of convenience.
Even conservative Republicans are miffed at Keyes' selection, which some of them view as a desperate and doomed attempt to stop the Obama Express, which, one newspaper noted, is an unstoppably cannon balling to Washington.
Foot soldier conservative publications are already in the full mourning mood, convinced as they are, that Illinois senate seat is irretrievably lost at least for now. They are blaming fellow conservatives for goofing the entire process. Whether pro- or anti-Keyes, they see his quest as quixotic.
"Keyes is taking one for the team - something not one Illinois Republican could be bothered to do. He did not actively seek this gig, he has committed to come here (Illinois), run an honourable campaign in 85 short days, and then certainly go down to resounding defeat," a dispirited Republican willing to give Keyes a chance observed.
Another conservative, not so quick to embrace Keyes, shot back: "Alan Keyes needs to be put out to pasture, so does the Republican party mindset that allows guys like Keyes to stick around; the mindset of 'we really don't want blacks in our party anyway other than one or two that the rest of black folks can't stand'."
Another miffed conservative surmised that it appears the Republican Party has yet to seriously grasp the race issue in American politics. "Because the Democrats are going to elect Barack Obama, the Republican Party is going to one of their reliable old minstrels to show that they have Negroes too." And on and on and on.
Obama must be watching the Republican political fratricide with amusement. Everything Republicans are doing is militating for him. In the meantime, his Express is moving as planned. To Washington.