Abandoning Mr. Keyes

October 14, 1992

To no one's surprise, the national Republican party has abandoned Alan Keyes, its candidate to unseat Maryland's Sen. Barbara Mikulski. Even Mr. Keyes should not have been surprised by the decision not to invest substantial resources in his campaign. Plainly he has seen it coming for some time. It is a serious, probably fatal, blow to a candidate who was never more than a long shot.

Still, Mr. Keyes' candidacy deserves more than a cursory obituary for several reasons. One is the charge of racism he previously leveled at national Republican leaders but left unspoken in a news conference Tuesday. This time he ascribed the withholding of support by the national party to his outspoken adherence to conservative principles he believes its leaders have abandoned.

To make the racism charge stick, Mr. Keyes would have to demonstrate that he was denied support because he was black. And to have voters believe he is ostracized because he is a maverick, he needs to show that party leaders value spite over winning a seat in the Senate. That he cannot do, since the Republican party has other reasons for withholding money and other assistance. His campaign has failed to catch on anywhere discernible, and he lags seriously in every political poll taken in Maryland.

Given the national Republican lack of interest in minorities over the years, however, the guardians of party coffers might have decided to spend some money conspicuously on its most prominent black candidate just to convince African Americans elsewhere they are interested casting a wider net. Mr. Keyes thought they should have, and said so bluntly. Traditional politics prevailed, however. That doesn't constitute racism, but it doesn't say much for the national party's interest in developing a broader spectrum, either.

Whatever the outcome Nov. 3, Mr. Keyes is an unusually intelligent, articulate and versatile figure. You do not have to agree with many of his ideas to appreciate the fact that he has them, talks about them eloquently and stimulates others to respond to them. He sometimes comes across as intellectually arrogant. In a politician seeking elective office, that is a liability. There are other forms of public service, however, where a bit of disdain is bearable.

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