Following the Civil War the majority of African-Americans supported the Republican Party. A Republican controlled executive and legislative branch of the Federal government worked to preserve the Union and end slavery. Republican support pushed the Thirteenth Amendment through Congress and approval by the states allowing for true freedom for black Americans. This freedom provided free expression for black Americans in politics and the ability to choose for themselves what to believe. African-Americans felt a sense of dedication to the Republican Party for all they had done for them.
In the 1930’s the Great Depression was sweeping the nation leaving twenty-five percent of the population unemployed and many more than that struggling to find enough money to feed themselves and their families. Hit hardest by the Great Depression were the minority groups including black Americans. Many Americans blamed the Republican Party for the economic state of the Union due to a lack of effort by the executive branch, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover in particular.
With the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 the nation saw the dawning of a new era. Roosevelt began his New Deal programs to help Americans get through the economic turmoil of the Great Depression. Social security and welfare programs, along with the creation of new jobs made Roosevelt very popular among the lower class, which at that time was where most African-Americans found themselves. Since that time the majority of black Americans have been aligned with the Democratic Party.
There have been, however, some minorities of this minority; black Americans who sympathize with the conservative ideals of the Republican Party. This conservatism is in strong opposition to the majority of the Africa-American population who hold generally liberal social philosophies. One of the most well known of these conservative Republican black Americans is Dr. Alan L. Keyes.
Dr. Keyes was born on August 7, 1950 in New York City, New York.His mother was a schoolteacher and his father served as a sergeant in the Army.Keyes lived a typical military life, moving whenever his father was transferred. Marlo Lewis, a college friend of Keyes, said of Keyes’ father, “He was an exemplar of military code. That party explains Alan’s very deep devotion to the United States.”This dedication to the United States is the underlying tone in all of Keyes’ political philosophies.
Alan Keyes attended private Catholic schools until he transferred to a public high school in the ninth grade.Keyes notes that his education at Catholic school instilled a strict discipline he carried with him through the rest of his educational career, “There was somewhat more structure and discipline in the Catholic schools. But by the time I got to public high school that discipline was ingrained.”
Keyes attended Cornell University in Ithaca, NY during the height of the United States involvement in Vietnam.The disgust he felt for the anti-war movement of the 1960’s helped mold him into a Republican despite the fact that both his parents were Democrats.Keyes delivered many speeches while in college in support of the Vietnam Conflict including one that earned him first place in the American Legion oratorical competition, the first black person to do so.In 1969, Keyes’ freshman year at Cornell, a group of black militants took over the student center at Cornell.A speech he gave in protest of this take over prompted a threat on his life and forced him to leave Cornell and move to Paris.He returned a year later at which time he earned a bachelor of arts and a doctorate in government affairs from Harvard.
At the heart of the political philosophy of Alan Keyes is his belief that “It’s the principle that counts.”By this he means that, to him, it is more important to face issues with a strong set of moral principles than with a lot of talk.Keyes himself notes that it is important for him to stick to his message, telling people not what they want to hear, like most politicians, but what they need to hear.In each of his attempts at political office, twice seeking the Republican Presidential nomination and twice seeking a Senate seat in Maryland, it has been his conviction that his political beliefs are correct and what America needs that drove his campaigns.
Alan Keyes believes that the future of the United States of America is in serious doubt due to a decline in moral responsibility by its citizens.In his political manifesto Our Character, Our Future, Keyes stresses a conservative agenda on a number of social issues including abortion, homosexuality, welfare, and morality.Keyes dedicates part of his book to the meaning of freedom and how it relates to morality,
Freedom requires that at the end of the day, we accept the constraint that is required, the respect for the laws of nature and nature’s God that say unequivocally that our daughters do not have the right to do what wrong, that our sons do not have the right to do what is wrong…Look at what is happening in the streets of our cities. Look at what is happening to our families today. Do you think that the decline of marriage and the moral dissolution of the family is a money problem? Or do you think it is a problem that comes from putting the self first, from deciding that there are no obligations that have to be respected, and that at the end of the day freedom is just another king of empty licentiousness?
To get a truly accurate idea about what Alan Keyes believes and teaches one must look closely at his view on social issues. This is where Keyes has focused the majority of his political philosophy. He is considered by many to be, “the man meeting America’s moral challenge.”He has, since the beginning of his political career delivered the same message: “Abortion is at the heart of the moral decay; God is the only answer to the nation’s problems; any Republican willing to compromise on moral issues is worthy only of scorn.”This teaching, that America is morally deteriorating because it has turned away from God and basic moral teachings, has made Alan Keyes a favorite among Christian circles, a strange bedfellow for a black Catholic since it is a predominately white Protestant group in this country.
At the top of the list of issues plaguing the United States in terms of social issues for Keyes is abortion. It is so important to him, in fact, that he considered leaving the Republican Party when President George W. Bush considered choosing a pro-choice running mate in the 2000 presidential election.A dedicated Roman Catholic, Alan Keyes speaks out adamantly against the deeper issue abortion is a part of,
I talk about abortion not just because of the issue in and of itself, but because I think I epitomizes the deeper issue, which is the corruption of our idea of freedom—a corruption that is really killing us…If we harden our hearts against our offspring, and if we aggrandize our self-fulfillment to the extent that we are willing to kill our offspring, that is the extreme case of the self-centered and egotistical and self-worshipping concept of freedom I think is being promoted in various ways in the society.
Keyes is a strong believer that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bible all support the pro-life agenda.He said in a Republican Party Primary debate, “If the Declaration of Independence states our creed, there can be no right to abortion, since it means denying the most fundamental right of all, to human offspring in the womb.”
As strong a pro-life supporter Keyes is he is willing to make and exception in the case that the mother’s life is in danger.Keyes argues that the right to preserve the life of the mother is an unalienable right, thus this exception must be made to maintain a truly pro-life agenda.Although Keyes does not personally favor an exception made for cases of rape or incest he does state that he would, “…accept the rape and incest exceptions only as a matter of political necessity if that is the best legislation we could achieve at the time.”He goes on to clarify that, “I see no grounds in principle for making these exceptions, but as a matter of political prudence it would be suicidal for the pro-life movement to reject these people.”
Also of major concern for Keyes in the social issues arena are civil rights. Adhering to the ideology of the conservative Republican Party Keyes is opposed to affirmative action, supports a reduction in money spent on welfare, and wants to put God back in public society.
Concerning affirmative action Alan Keyes feels this policy is detrimental to the advancement of minorities in the work place. He notes that the founders of this nation supported the principle that, …”all men are created equal and endowed by their creator; not by their ancestry, not by their skin color, not by their gender, not by Congress and not by the Constitution.”To this end all citizens of this nation should be chosen based on their qualifications not based on their physical qualities.
Keyes feels that affirmative action suggests that certain groups of people, women and Africa-Americans in particular, cannot succeed on their own.This presumption does not advance civil rights but rather turns back the clock hundreds of years.Keyes claims that this type of preferential treatment separates the people of this nation by securing jobs and money for one group leading to resentment to the majority that do not receive such assistance.
In 1994 Alan Keyes published a book entitled Masters of the Dream: The Strength and Betrayal of Black America.In this book Keyes looks into the social status of African-Americans in this country. The welfare system, Keyes argues, is a major problem in the social development of minority groups in the United States.He feels that this system has resulted in a deterioration of values among many people receiving its benefits.The empowerment needed by these people should come from the self, the church and the education system, not from government subsidies.
Keyes states that he will support the welfare system if they do what they are supposed to; offer assistance for individuals to be able to provide for themselves.In his book Our Character, Our Future, Keyes speaks out against the detrimental side effects of the current welfare system,
Most taxpayers are sick to death of a costly system that encourages and perpetuates poverty. The aim of welfare reform is to finally correct the perverse incentive system, which seems to enforce idleness and penalize people who work hard. Current proposals for reform don’t go far enough. They entirely neglect the damaging impact that the system has had on family structure. It discourages marriage. It promotes single parent, female-headed households. Instead of paying what amounts to a baby bonus to unwed mothers, we should find ways to provide a marriage bonus.
As the president of Citizens Against Government Waste, Keyes worked to lower taxes and lower government spending, including what he considers frivolous spending in the form of welfare.
Alan Keyes is a man committed to his faith in God. He is dedicated to the reinstatement of the freedom of religion he feels this country has lost. When asked if posting the Ten Commandments in schools invalidated the religious expression of children who are not Judeo-Christian he responded, “ The Ten Commandments are etched into the walls of the Supreme Court. I find it rather had to believe it could be inappropriate to put them on the walls of our schools.”Keyes feels the problem this country has in regards to religious freedom is that somewhere along the line the federal government, in protecting the country from uniform religion, decided that irreligion was the only solution.He feels that providing the right for parents to choose what schools to send their children to is paramount in this discussion.This would allow for prayer in school for those who choose to participate.
The controversy over the separation of church and state in this country is not a controversy at all to Keyes. He points out clearly that there is no mention of such a doctrine in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence.Keyes feels the courts are trying to use the First Amendment right of freedom of religion to promote atheism in this country.Keyes states, when asked if he is for or against the separation of church and state, “The Declaration of Independence states the source of our rights in the creator God. You can tell, if you like, that that’s a religious conviction. I know it is the American creed. I won’t give up on the Declaration.”
Alan Keyes places a great deal of emphasis on his personal principles and values that he feels are important for the moral recovery of the United States.He argues that citizens of this country must address the moral crisis that exists or they will lose the liberty so many have worked to preserve for so long.For instance, Keyes professes that the an individuals fundamental beliefs must be based on “unalienable rights.”He notes that, “ the moral challenge has to do with the corruption of our understanding of freedom, which leads to the abandonment of respect for law and individual responsibility, the twin pillars which ought to undergrid true freedom.”The moral ground on which people must base this “challenge” come through Christianity and the Declaration of Independence.Keyes believes that Christianity perfectly embodies the ideals that make up a good moral person.Recognizing that America is made up of people from a variety of religious backgrounds, Keyes proposes that the Declaration of Independence encompasses the same moral values as Christianity, and therefore he has made it the soul basis for facing the moral crisis that faces the United States.
Restoring the moral foundations to family is of utmost concern to Keyes. In a 1996 speech on national political awareness Keyes states, “My number one priority is to restore the moral and material foundations of family life.”He believes that overturning Roe v. Wade and returning control of the educational system to parents is paramount to returning America to a good moral level.
While Alan Keyes has had great success as a speaker and moral leader in this country he has never been elected to a role in national politics. He ran for a Senatorial seat in Maryland twice against Democratic incumbents and lost both times.Keyes has also made attempts to become the Republican presidential nominee in 1996 and 2000 neither campaign having success.Part of the reason for his failure to win an election came from his unwillingness to compromise to listen to other people’s advice according to Joyce Terhes, former state Republican Party chairwoman for Maryland.This personal conviction that his ideas and policies are the only right one is certainly Keyes’ tragic flaw. This flaw made itself know during his 1992 run for a Maryland Senate seat.He decided it was appropriate to pay himself $8,000 a month out of campaign funds leaving his campaign weak and greatly under funded.
Alan Keyes is a man passionately committed to his beliefs. His pursuit of a morally strong country has brought him into the national spotlight as a fiery orator speaking out against what he feels is destroying the spirit and soul of the United States.His commitment to the moral foundations of freedom coupled with his requirement that all people take responsibilities make him a favorite among conservative Republicans.
For Keyes the most fundamental, unalienable right is freedom. Speaking of this country’s Founders in Our Future, Our Character Keyes states,
The men and women who first launched the great experiment in liberty we enjoy to this day did not tell us that freedom would be an easy road. They offered us a hard-won vision of the future of America. It was not a vision of licentious freedom and stupid self-indulgence. Instead, it was a vision of freedom based upon the fear of God and the respect for law.
His focus on freedom and restoring this nation to a God fearing instead of a God hiding society is a welcome and long awaited philosophical ideology. The kind of unbending and relentless moral fortitude found in Alan Keyes is an important ingredient to a creating a country where each and every life is valued and no opinions, political, religious or otherwise, are drowned out by the majority. Setting his sights on a more successful, more civil, and freer society, Alan Keyes stresses that it is not the opinion of an individual person in an individual situation that determines moral value, but instead, “it’s the principle that counts.”