Gentle readers in Ohio have doubtless been following this week's political tempest about the posting of Social Security numbers on the web site of Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.
You haven't? You mean that you don't pay close attention to a gubernatorial election eight months before it happens? Well, what if the primary is only two and a half months away? Really? We just assumed that everyone thinks about electoral politics all the time.
And that revelation is what exposes the ineptitude, born of fear, among Blackwell's opponents on both sides of the political aisle.
The controversy, in sum and employing our signature bullet points, is as follows:
- The Secretary of State in Ohio is responsible for the filing of various business paperwork required under law.
- These forms are matters of public record.
- Legislation therefore requires that they be posted on the internet at the Secretary of State's official web site. Alteration of forms before posting is forbidden.
- Some of these forms allow but do not require the listing of the applicant's SSN.
- Such SSNs are therefore accessible from the web.
- Jim Petro, Ohio Attorney General and Republican primary opponent of Blackwell, has accused the Secretary of State of facilitating identity theft by this legally required posting. He has been joined by various Democrats.
- Blackwell's office has countered that they have no legal means to take the forms off the web or to "redact" their contents.
After two days of hysterical reporting on the issue, the Cincinnati Enquirer today expresses what has become exceedingly rare on its opinion pages: a thoughtful opinion. Noting that Petro, the state AG, has said that Blackwell should have redacted the forms yet offered no legal authority that he possessed to do so, the Enquirer blames the legislature for failing to act.
So that's the story, but let's get to the politics. Petro is looking to tar Blackwell as insensitive and incompetent. Fear of identity theft, he hopes, will drive the Rs to him despite his association with the Taft RINO preserve. Ds, meanwhile, fear a Blackwell candidacy more than the mutation of Asian Bird Influenza, so they'll support anything to defeat him, even if it means helping Petro.
But the whole thing has been handled with such supreme political ineptitude that it will come to nothing. First, it's way too early to expect that anyone will notice or care. Voters are still doing their income taxes and speculating on NCAA tournament bids. This will be over long before anyone thinks about the fact that Ohio even has a governor.
Second, nobody looks good in this. Petro is the AG, and he has done nothing (admittedly like Blackwell) to address this problem except to draw attention to it for political purposes. Dems in the legislature haven't introduced legislation to address it either. Pants are down on all sides.
Despite its likely insignificance, this story may get some big play in the big media outlets. Pundits anxious for a national story in the off-year elections, are portraying Blackwell's candidacy as a bellwether. It is hugely significant, as we have noted before, that the Rs have several strong candidates running for statewide offices who happen to be African-American. Their success will inevitably erode the Ds stranglehold on the African-American vote, to the eternal detriment of their moribund coalition and its bankrupt political philosophy. Eleanor Clift (motto: If only Bill Clinton would return my passionate love!) would love to make Ohio the turning point for the national Ds while disparaging the "handful" of black Rs like Blackwell (memo to Ms. Clift: how many black Ds are running for or serving as governor in our republic?).
But the truth is that this campaign will turn on Blackwell's appeal as a candidate. With his impeccable and utterly consistent conservative principles and long-term cultivation of conservative organizations, he will have a solid conservative base working hard at the grassroots. With two terms as Secretary of State and lots of media coverage along the way, he's got the best name recognition of any candidate in Ohio. At six-foot-five and with a stentorian bass voice, he's an impressive stump speaker. And as a for-real product of Cincinnati's segregated West End, he will appeal to a segment of voters whom the Ds have treated like stepchildren.