Politics & Policy

Paint It Blackwell

What Thursday's inanity was really about.

Unlike the Jesse Jackson-led Democratic convulsions after the 2000 election was settled, Thursday’s shenanigans on the House floor were not primarily an effort to delegitimize George W. Bush’s presidency. ash

The number-one target of the protest of Ohio’s vote was the most promising African-American Republican politician in the country: Ohio secretary of state Kenneth Blackwell. A word count of the Congressional Record makes the case clearly: George Bush’s name was mentioned 109 times during the debate, while Ken Blackwell’s was mentioned 149.

When you take into account that many of the Bush mentions were made by Republicans, and that every mention of Blackwell was in a statement by a Democrat, it is clear who the real target of Thursday’s proceedings was.

With no black Republicans in the House, Senate, or any governorships, Blackwell is one of the highest-ranking elected African Americans in the GOP. On top of that, he is a true conservative, so much so that the Ohio Republican establishment and Governor Bob Taft find him intolerably irritating.

In 2000, the nasty attacks on Katherine Harris had nothing to do with Harris herself; she simply made a convenient target in the Democrats’ attempts to overturn the Bush victory, and then to delegitimize him. With Ohio, it really is about Blackwell.

As a party, the Democrats need to fear Blackwell. He is skilled, conservative, and on his way up. He could be governor in a couple years and who knows where he could go from there. So Democrats have an interest in sullying his name before it gets big.

After Thursday’s debates and the protests Ohio Democrats have raised since the election, once Blackwell’s name is mentioned on the national stage again, every major newspaper reporter will reflexively call him a “controversial figure” who is “at the heart of the much-criticized 2004 election in Ohio.”

If Blackwell is weighed down with this baggage before he gets too big, not only will a possible gubernatorial, senatorial, or presidential candidate be eliminated, but national Democrats will also continue pointing out the embarrassing whiteness of the GOP. If you lined up every elected Republican in Washington and all the governors, you would be looking at over 300 white faces. The only black Republicans in prominent positions are appointed. That’s bad PR for the GOP, and good news for the Democrats.

Miguel Estrada knows how this works. Democrats, as their memos revealed, found Estrada “especially dangerous because. . . he is Latino.” It’s not that Dick Durbin and Pat Leahy’s staff think Hispanics are inherently more “dangerous,” it’s that they don’t want to be seen opposing one for the High Court, when all of America will be watching. He had to be stopped before then.

The attack dogs of personal destruction succeeded with their preemptive strike on Estrada, and now they’ll try with Blackwell.

Estrada and Blackwell both suffered a particular brand of racism mostly practiced by Democrats against minorities. Democrats attacked Estrada’s conservatism, saying he clearly did not represent the views of the Hispanic community, much like how Clarence Thomas is said to be not truly black because of his political philosophy.

The presumption behind this attack is that while whites can believe anything they want, blacks and Hispanics need to follow their leftist “community leaders” or they are sell-outs.

Similarly, Blackwell is offensive to the Congressional Black Caucus because he doesn’t follow their strict orders. For the crime of being a black conservative, they skewer him. On the floor, Rep. Maxine Waters had this gem:

Ohio’s partisan secretary of state, Mr. Kenneth Blackwell, I am ashamed to say an African-American man has failed to follow even Ohio’s election procedures, let alone procedures that comply with Federal law and constitutional requirements. Our ancestors who died for the right to vote certainly must be turning over in their graves.

While Barbara Boxer and the congressmen who led Thursday’s inanity made themselves look bad, they may consider that a fine tradeoff if they can rub some dirt on a promising black Republican.

Timothy P. Carney is a Phillips fellow and a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.

Timothy P. CarneyMr. Carney, the author of Alienated America, is the commentary editor of the Washington Examiner and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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