By Richard Muhammad
-Guest Columnist-

( – The charge that Black conservatives are simply Republican Party pawns looks pretty undeniable with the selection of Maryland resident Alan Keyes as the GOP candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois.

In a state with 12 million people and thousands of Republicans, the GOP couldn’t find one credible candidate to represent the party and had to bus, or rather fly in, a Black man from halfway across the country to run against a talented Black frontrunner.

Mr. Keyes announced Aug. 8 that he had accepted an invitation to run, though he didn’t even have a P.O. Box address–let alone an actual place to live in Illinois. He has found a comfortable home on the pages of newspapers and in television studios during his latest crusade.


State GOP groveling failed to convince a former NFL Chicago Bears coach, or any seasoned legislator, to step into the race against Democrat Barack Obama, who won a crushing victory in the Democratic primary and whose TV appearance at the Democratic National Convention made him a rising political star.

But once it was decided that going Black might be the best route, there wasn’t one qualified Black GOP stalwart worthy of the spotlight–no businessman, no educator, no military veteran? Was there no Black person associated with the Republican Party in the land of Lincoln qualified to run for a statewide office?

Black Republicans in Illinois who have tried to make in-roads into the Black community should either feel very stupid or very angry. Here was an opportunity to put someone forward and their party failed again.

But that failure is not surprising. Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported how the American Dream PAC, a Republican fund set up to financially support qualified minority candidates and run by Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas), had raised over $500,000 since 1999. The problem is little of the money went to any minority candidate running for office.

The Post found “only $48,750–or 8.9 percent–of the $547,000 the southwest Texas congressman has raised for his political action committee has gone to minority office-seekers, while more than $100,000 has been routed to Republican Party organizations or causes, including a GOP redistricting effort in Texas, a legal defense fund for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) and Bonilla’s reelection campaign. Most of the remainder of the money went to legal fees, fundraisers in Miami and other cities, airline tickets, hotels, catering services, consultants and salaries.”

The Post continued, “In all, 27 minority office-seekers, predominantly Hispanic American, received money, mostly small donations. But Bonilla said it was sometimes difficult to find ‘good, solid minority candidates to expend the funds on.’”

It’s interesting that the Post report also came two years after the GOP boasted of having a record number of minority candidates run for elected office.

It’s also sad that these conservatives really aren’t independent minded. The Black community could use people who are willing to think and act differently for the future. But the action and thought should be on behalf of a community suffering from problems of violence, poverty, AIDS, failing education, and economic distress. This is also a community operating in an era where it has few advocates and discussion of remedies for past and ongoing racial inequality is nearly non-existent.

It’s sad that conservatives seek individual opportunity and a personal spotlight to criticize their community and apologize for their Republican masters. In Mr. Keyes’ case, victory is assured. During his 1992 run for a Senate seat in Maryland, he paid himself $100,000 a year in salary, but campaign debts went unpaid. That didn’t go over too well with some of the folks who gave money to his campaign.

A Time magazine reporter estimated that the increased stature and attention he received likely raised his speaking fees to $15,000 a pop. It’s no wonder he wants to debate Mr. Obama, a law professor and state legislator. Mr. Keyes knows every high profile appearance, interview and outrageous remark only increases his marquee–or maybe its minstrel show–value. Mr. Keyes makes his money as a speaker, whether on radio or in personal appearances before the GOP faithful.

It’s sad that these conservatives really can’t speak for themselves. They could be powerful voices for Black empowerment and a powerful alternative to their like-minded Brothers on the other side, who offer apology after apology for the Democratic Party’s benign neglect. Black people need strong, independent advocates who can speak on their behalf.

(Richard Muhammad is a Chicago-based writer and editor of StraightWords E-Zine. He can be reached via website at