Right now, Ken Blackwell stands at a pivotal point in American politics. He's taken an early lead in the race for governor of a state that was key to reelecting George W. Bush and that may well be even more crucial in picking the next American president. Moreover, Blackwell has built his early lead not by tacking toward the center of this swing state but by running on an uncompromisingly conservative platform that's won him grassroots support from both Christian groups and taxpayer organizations--a novel coalition that makes the old-boy network in his own Ohio GOP as uneasy as it makes the state's Democrats, who have begun a "stop Blackwell" campaign.Tax reform! Be still my heart!
Ken Blackwell has so many people worried because he represents a new political calculus with the power to shake up American politics. For Blackwell is a fiscal and cultural conservative, a true heir of the Reagan revolution, who happens to be black, with the proven power to attract votes from across a startlingly wide spectrum of the electorate. Born in the projects of Cincinnati to a meat-packer who preached the work ethic and a nurse who read to him from the Bible every evening, Blackwell has rejected the victimology of many black activists and opted for a different path, championing school choice, opposing abortion, and staunchly advocating low taxes as a road to prosperity. The 57-year-old is equally comfortable preaching that platform to the black urban voters of Cincinnati as to the white German Americans in Ohio's rural counties or to the state's business community.
Blackwell stands apart from the group [of leading black Republicans], thanks to his deep electoral experience and his very good chance of getting elected. He has already run more political races--from school-board seat to city councilman to secretary of state--than all the rest of them combined. He's served in Washington as a HUD undersecretary and traveled the world as a U.S. ambassador. He's chaired a major presidential campaign, been mayor of one of Ohio's largest cities, and plotted supply-side fiscal policy with Jack Kemp. If he wins in Ohio, a state where Republicans are on the defensive after scandals that rocked the administration of Governor Bob Taft, Blackwell would not only become the nation's first elected black Republican governor but would immediately figure as a compelling 2008 vice-presidential candidate.
"Ken Blackwell represents the only chance the Republicans have in Ohio," says Paul Weyrich, who headed the Heritage Foundation, where Blackwell was an analyst in 1990. Weyrich, who calls Blackwell one of the few extraordinary individuals he has met in 50 years of public service, says that, without him on the ticket, Ohio Republicans "are going down the tubes big-time for what they've done there."
Serving on the National Commission on Economic Growth and Tax Reform in the mid-1990s, Blackwell became a passionate advocate of a simplified tax code and co-edited a book with Kemp, entitled IRS v. The People: Time for Real Tax Reform. So much significance did Blackwell eventually come to attach to tax reform that he agreed to chair Steve Forbes's 2000 Republican presidential primary campaign, centering on Forbes's flat-tax proposal. "Ken is an experienced fighter in the political trenches, but he also thoroughly understands the ideas he's fighting for," says Forbes. "That's a very rare combination in politics."
Can Ken Blackwell fulfill the unkept promise of Jack Kemp? Of Alan Keyes? Will the Republican have the first serious black candidate on a presidential ticket? In the White House?
There has been a lot of "Draft Condi" talk out in the blogosphere; but much as I admire Ms Rice and her many accomplishments, winning any elective office has not been one of them. Mr. Blackwell may be a leader in the movement to clean up the corruption that has bloomed in the Republican party since they came to congressional power in 1994.
I hereby declare my support for a "Draft Ken Blackwell" 2008 campaign.
Loose the pigeons!