Wednesday, January 18, 2006

City Journal has a very favorable profile of Ken Blackwell, running for governor of Ohio.
Blackwell is betting that many black Americans may be ready for a candidate, like him, who doesn’t preach victimology and doesn’t see the world almost entirely in racial terms. Blackwell is a post-racial, post-civil rights campaigner; race rarely enters into his speeches and is barely a part of his political platform. And even when Blackwell does address racial issues—the achievement gap between black and white students, for instance—it’s to tout free-market solutions like vouchers and charter schools. So far, this approach has resonated with black voters, attracting 40 to 50 percent of them in his statewide elections, even though he runs on the GOP line. And his strong support of Bush in 2004, analysts say, helped the president double his black vote in Ohio over the 2000 election. Bush won 17 percent of African-American votes in Ohio in 2004, compared with 11 percent nationally.

With that kind of track record, Blackwell has become a growing target of left-wing blacks like Jesse Jackson, aghast that the first black governor of a major midwestern state might actually turn out to be a conservative who doesn’t trade on race. Though Blackwell has yet to suffer the kind of indignities of Maryland’s Steele—pelted with Oreo cookies in his campaign appearances—black Democrats have dismissed him as an opportunist for joining the GOP and accused him of trying to “disenfranchise” blacks to help elect George Bush president. In the midst of the campaign, one Ohio Democrat compared Blackwell to a “children’s Transformer toy,” because he wore an Afro in college and today is a conservative. Jackson showed up in the state just before the 2004 vote and denounced “beneficiaries of our work engaging in election schemes to undermine the right to vote,” a reference to Blackwell’s role as the state’s chief election officer. Mindful that many people found it hard to swallow the notion that a black was disenfranchising other blacks, Blackwell shot back, “I am Jesse Jackson’s worst nightmare.”
Whether Blackwell can pull off a victory in Ohio is in doubt. He may hold the lead now, but wait while the unions, NAACP, and other liberal interest groups unleash all their attacks. And the GOP in Ohio is so full of RINOs that they're opposing him too. The same Ohio GOP who have been raising taxes for years and electing weak leaders like Voinovich and Bob Taft don't want a real conservative like Blackwell to become the leader of their state party. We can hope that Ohio voters are more savvy than the Ohio GOP.