“We've let ourselves be manipulated (by politicians), and my hope is that we can revitalize active citizenship,” said Keyes, 58, who as a Republican has run unsuccessfully for political office several times, including the 2004 Illinois Senate race against now-President Barack Obama.
But while many of Obama's policies distress Keyes, he blames both major parties for the recession and the “spendthrift” policies approved to combat it. That's one reason he no longer considers himself a Republican.
“Our banking system is broken. Our political system is broken. Our government is broken. And yet the only thing offered in response is to trust the very people responsible. We must start at the grass-roots level to take our country back from those who have betrayed us to the shibboleth of global government,” said Keyes, who hopes tea parties here and across that country will energize people to do more than complain.
Keyes was invited by a group of local conservatives and will not be paid for his appearance. He spoke at a tea party in Pittsburgh last week and will appear at similar events in Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania before coming to Indiana, where he will also appear at South Bend to protest Obama's upcoming address at the University of Notre Dame. Like many of his fellow Catholics, Keyes believes a Catholic university should not bestow an honorary degree on a pro-choice politician.
“We need to restore moral self-discipline and personal responsibility,” Keyes said in a telephone interview. “If we don't wake up soon, we won't recognize the country. With the greed, ambition and frenzy of spending, I'd give us an ‘F' for our financial future.”
Although Keyes said he's optimistic Americans are beginning to pay attention - several thousand people attended Saturday's tea party in Pittsburgh - he said he is not convinced they will be able to reign in the federal government unless they start by ousting every incumbent, conservatives and liberals alike.
Keyes ran for president in 1996, 2000 and 2008 and for the U.S. Senate in 1988, 1992 and 2004. He also served as a United Nations ambassador and as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs from 1985 to 1987.
Today, Keyes is most sympathetic to the American Independent Party, aipnews.com, but said he's not sure he'll seek office again because trying to motivate Americans may be more important than trying to represent them.
“We need to start with common sense,” he said.
Sharon Kuhn, one of the local tea party organizers, said local conservatives have been promoting Saturday's tea party on the Internet and through the local media, and are hoping for a good turnout.
“I've been told we may have more than 4,000 people at the courthouse,” she said.