Keyes to the city?

Nov 3, 2004 at 12:00 am

I say we recruit Alan Keyes to run for mayor of Detroit. Whaddya think? Wouldn’t have a chance in hell, but he’d sure get folks to tune in to next year’s election race, wouldn’t he? And see, that’s the thing: Now that this presidential election is (maybe) over, we need to ensure that just Detroit voters remain excited and engaged for next year’s local elections.

This morning, maybe it’s Bush, maybe it’s Kerry. Then again, maybe it’s headed for the House — or for the Supreme Court all over again. I finished this Monday so I have no idea.

One thing is for certain: There isn’t much of anything else most voting age folks are thinking and/or talking about Wednesday morning than what did — or did not — happen Tuesday night.

However, as tempting as it is to take my crystal ball out for a test run and write a column predicting what kind of shape we’re in this morning, I keep having visions of that infamously wrong “Dewey beats Truman” newspaper headline of more than 50 years ago and decided maybe I didn’t want to follow along in that tradition.

But maybe it’s time to get a head start on next year’s mayoral election right here in the Motor City. The way things are looking right now, based on who has already signaled their intentions to compete against Mayor Kilpatrick, it’s not likely to generate anywhere near the same kind of heat as the Kerry/Bush race because, well, the challengers aren’t all that exciting.

Four years ago, when Kilpatrick made his first run for the mayor’s office, there was an air of excitement and anticipation simply because Kilpatrick was so young and energetic, plus he had that hip-hop thing going on. The sheer contrast in styles, age and experience between Kilpatrick and then City Council President Gil Hill was so dramatic that it at least kind of made you want to tune in and follow along. Youth always brings with it an element of hope as well as fearlessness — and risk.

Since Kilpatrick’s election we’ve seen him deliver on some of that youthful promise, but there’ve been disappointments aplenty. For instance, can you think of a more questionable appointment than mayoral chief of staff Christine (“Do you know who the fuck I am?”) Beatty? And just last week we found out about the Next Vision Foundation, a Kilpatrick Clan Production that seems to be doing a better job of giving financial assistance to the mayor’s family and friends than to the Detroit youngsters it was intended to help.

But despite his weak points — which his challengers will no doubt try to open wide like floodwater punching through a dam — I haven’t seen much in either Freman Hendrix or Sharon McPhail that’s likely to yank the crowds to their feet in thunderous applause.

My guess is that we will once again witness a moderate voter turnout at best, despite the record number of new voters who have registered during this year’s presidential election, and whoever wins will be able to thank that dedicated handful of voters who say, “What the hell, might as well vote for someone.”

Unless we throw in a wild card like Alan Keyes. Now that would be a fun race to watch, folks. No, seriously. In fact, I e-mailed Keyes’ organization the other day, though I still haven’t heard back.

After all, what voters really like to see is a good fight, and I can’t think of anyone else out there who could bring a better fight to the ring than Keyes. When Geoffrey Fieger briefly toyed with making a run for the office there was the distant possibility of some good fireworks. No one likes to brawl more than Fieger, but Fieger’s white and that pretty much put an end to his chances before he even had the chance to lace up his gloves.

But Keyes is black, he’s a conservative Republican, and after he finishes losing to Barack Obama for that Illinois Senate seat — which should be right about now — then he should once again be available for hire. And after relocating from Maryland to Illinois for no other reason than to run for office, he obviously doesn’t sweat the carpetbagger accusations — nor the accusation that he’s running a hopeless campaign.

Considering the laundry list of problems facing Detroit — and so many other urban areas — it would be a kick just to hear Keyes expound on what he would do to save Detroit, then watch the expression on Kilpatrick’s face. Just to get an idea of what Keyes might have in mind for our dear city, all you need to do is to check out the transcripts of his recent debates against Obama. Even better, watch the videos online at This guy has some nut-brained ideas, such as the contention that the children of gay marriages will be victims of incest because they could accidentally have sex with a biological relative without knowing it. But he definitely knows how to scrap, and he knows how to do it with a smile, which is a real skill.

Anybody who has paid any attention to Keyes for any length of time knows that his main claim to fame, aside from his impressive speaking and debating ability, is his commitment to moral issues — or at least what he defines as moral issues — over and above everything else. His is one of the loudest voices in opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. That right there would be likely to get him an appreciative audience with a certain segment of local ministers who came out strongly in support of Proposal 2.

For a large number of fundamentalist Christians, taking the “right” stand on “moral” issues such as these matter more than the economy, the war in Iraq, health care and the deficit put together, and Keyes speaks directly to their fears of a satanic America. Check out what he is reported to have said about Obama’s pro-choice voting record:

“Christ would not vote for Barack Obama because Barack Obama has voted to behave in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved.”

I guess that proves George W. Bush isn’t the only politician who regularly receives faxes from The Big Guy.

Bottom line: If Jesus Christ is against your opponent, and you call yourself a Christian, then the choice is pretty clear, isn’t it? And given all the wild rumors that have been flying around Mayor Kilpatrick, ever since the Manoogian Mansion boogie allegations, someone like Keyes would have no trouble at all stitching together an argument that a vote for Kilpatrick would be a vote for godless hedonism and against family values. It really wouldn’t matter that none of these matters have yet been proven (that kind of thing rarely matters during a political race) because a skilled debater like Keyes could easily make the mere appearance of impropriety loom large.

And while Kilpatrick starts to defend himself against that charge, Keyes could launch into a tirade against the spiraling murder rate in Detroit, how that’s representative of the moral crisis that is currently afflicting black America, and how such a thing could never have happened if God — or Keyes, as his disciple — were in charge. He could even pretend to be magnanimous and imply that Kilpatrick was on the right track when he got together with Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings and a group of ministers earlier this year to pray for guidance in response to the city’s violence.

As he said in the opening statement of his Oct. 21 debate against Obama, “I stand for the defense of innocent life. I stand for the defense of traditional marriage. … And I stand there not just for reasons of principle but because, for instance, in the black community in this country, the No. 1 taker of black life is abortion. More than AIDS, more than violence, more than heart disease, more than any of those causes, including accidents and so forth combined, abortion has claimed the lives of black people — more than twice as many, amounting to 25 percent reduction in the black population. This is the practical truth of the moral crisis that we’re in.”

And there you have it. The Voice of God vs. Kilpatrick.

Let’s get ready to rumble.

Keith A. Owens is a Detroit writer, editor and musician. Send comments to [email protected]