Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Welcome to Chicago, Alan

Alan Keyes got a surprise when he went to a parade in Chicago:

If U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes had any notions of capturing the hearts and minds of Chicago’s black electorate, the annual Bud Billiken Day Parade on Saturday proved that this task will be nothing short of daunting for the Republican.

Keyes, the conservative political figure from Maryland who entered the Senate race last week after GOP nominee Jack Ryan withdrew his candidacy, made his first trip Saturday into the heart of Chicago’s black community. Keyes, an African-American, was greeted with a resounding chorus of jeers and boos that bordered on outright hostility.

“Go back to Maryland!” and “Down with Keyes!” were the most common refrains.

The 75-year-old Billiken parade, which ran south along Martin Luther King Drive from Pershing Road to 55th Street, is touted as the largest African-American parade in the country and the biggest in Chicago. Besides baton twirlers, cowboys on horseback and colorful floats, politicians seeking black votes are wise not to forgo the gathering on the South Side.

By contrast, Democrat Barack Obama was treated to a king’s welcome, with thousands of parade-goers hoisting blue-and-white Obama signs, wearing Obama stickers and shrieking in pure joy as his float passed by. They serenaded the Hyde Park Democrat with chants of “O-Ba-Ma! O-Ba-Ma! O-Ba-Ma!”

Obama, a state senator, has achieved celebrity status among national Democrats after his much-ballyhooed keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in Boston. And in Chicago’s black community, Obama, also an African-American, apparently has ascended to supercelebrity status.

So when Obama’s political challenger appeared Saturday, the reception was not pretty. Over the first couple of blocks of the parade route, Keyes got a few down-turned thumbs and groans of dissent.

But as the crowds grew thicker and Keyes inched closer to a sea of Obama supporters, spectators grew more aggressive in denouncing him. As Keyes tried to shake hands between 47th and 48th Streets, a woman ran up to him, lifted an Obama sign above her head and screamed repeatedly into Keyes’ face: “Obama for president! Obama for president!”

Another man briefly grabbed Keyes’ arm and advised Keyes, “Take your [expletive] back to Maryland.” [Chicago Tribune]

Kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know that the people of Chicago know how to make a newcomer feel right at home.

(via Talking Points Memo)