Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Ken Blackwell, The First Amendment, And the Shape of Politics to Come

Gentle readers in Ohio will care most, but all readers will care a lot about the developing gubernatorial campaign in Ohio. Specifically Ken Blackwell's formidable bid for the office presents a remarkable intersection of factors. For deep background, see the superb article in the superb City Journal. For the SWNID summary, note the following bullet points:

  • Blackwell stands to become the first post-reconstruction African-American governor. And he is Republican. He may share this distinction with Lynn Swann in Pennsylvania, another Republican.
  • Blackwell has been enormously successful as a political candidate, getting successfully elected at every level of local and state office. He has also been remarkably successful in assuring the defeat of ballot initiatives that he has opposed. He wins elections.
  • Blackwell has one of the most efficient public relations operations of any politician in recent memory. He manages to get on the air regularly. His distribution of public-service radio spots highlighting character has enhanced his name recognition and credibility considerably, and at no cost to his campaign.
  • Blackwell is the opposite of the Ohio Republican archetype (RINOs like Bob Taft and George Voinovich). He is thoroughly conservative on all points. The party is dominated by the country club. SWNID notes that at 2004 Bush-Cheney events to which we were invited by CCU alum Brent Sanders, Southwest Ohio Campaign Coordinator for Bush-Cheney 2004, we judged ourselves to be the only person in the room who didn't live in Indian Hill.
  • Therefore, it is paradoxical but sadly true that the Republican establishment in Ohio, which should recognize it is in deep trouble after Coingate and Golfgate have labeled the party as corrupt, is doing everything it can to defeat Blackwell. Most recently, the party polled voters on their preferences in the primary. The poll revealed that Blackwell had considerably more support than rival Jim Petro, part of the establishment. Yet the party said that the poll also revealed that Petro had a better chance against Democrat Ted Strickland. How that was determined was not reported to the public, however. One senses that the party knows it can't openly oppose Blackwell but would like him to go away.
  • And the Republicans aren't the only ones. Democrats have been organizing to stop Blackwell for some time.
  • And here's where another issue--First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of religion--intersects. The so-called Reformation Ohio, an 501 (c) 3 religious organization led by Ohio megachurch ministers Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson, has given notable attention to Blackwell's candidacy. And so has arisen a coalition of religious groups demanding that the IRS withdraw RO's tax-exempt status for engaging in partisan politics. This is but one salvo in the left's anti-Blackwell crusade.

So here's what SWNID offers in response. First, the Ohio GOP needs to wise up. In Blackwell, they have a historic winner. He will demolish any Democrat opposition, as he will motivate the party base and cut into the minority voting base of the Ds. Never a part of the party establishment, he also offers a clean start for a corrupt organization. He will prove utterly competent as governor: he understands policy better than most people who study it full time. And his election will continue to loosen the stranglehold that the other party has on minority voters.

Second, the opponents of RO are patently disingenuous. The Toledo Blade offered an editorial differentiating RO's support of Blackwell with legal practice of churches openly inviting candidates to speak to them. SWNID says this is nonsense. Does anyone think that when John Kerry or Al Gore or Ted Strickland speak at an African-American church, they have no implied endorsement? The IRS agrees to play the game of nonpartisanship with religious organizations as long as they avoid explicit endorsement language. But they can go very far in pointing out the congruence of a candidate's positions with the values of the church. So should be the reality for RO. SWIND has little use for its leaders, but we see their opponents as brazenly applying a double standard to squelch free political speech.

Third, this is going to get a lot of attention. Money is coming in from out of state, largely to defeat Blackwell. In Maryland, Michael Steele, a similar candidate, has been pelted with Oreo cookies. Expect a Nabisco assault on Blackwell sometime in October.

But it won't matter. Blackwell is unbeatable. He's the most competent politician in the race. He will win regardless of the money equation, and regardless of the cookies.

There, we said it in advance. And we are Seldom Wrong.


JB in CA said...

Well, regardless of who wins, my governor can beat up your governor.

MRS SWNID said...

Well, as usual, I can count on jb in ca to make my day!

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Well, jb, just remember that Mr. Blackwell was an NFL recruit, whom the Dallas Cowboys wanted to use as an offensive lineman. Can a Hollywood body builder really beat up a for-real football player?

JB in CA said...

Maybe in one of his movies?

JB in CA said...

Assuming, of course, that Blackwell would be willing to take him on in one of his movies. --Or is Blackwell just another girlie man?