It’s no secret that the Ohio Republican Party is in trouble. Plagued by scandal, corruption and a declining economy, the chances of the GOP retaining its stranglehold on Ohio government seem dim. The only hope for Ohio conservatives to salvage what is left of their damaged party may be to elect Ken Blackwell for governor. Indeed, far from merely saving Ohio Republicans from further embarrassment, Blackwell seems to be a political force in his own right and may prove to be a major player on the national scene.
According to City Journal, Blackwell was born in the Cincinnati housing projects to a stern but loving father and a pious mother who sought to instill in their son a ferocious work ethic and a sense of ethical uprightness that would serve him for the rest of his life. He attended Xavier University on a football scholarship, and while in college he became a strong spokesman on the Xavier campus for the black power movement – dashiki, afro, the whole bit. After college, he made a run at the NFL but turned down a three-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys to return to Xavier for graduate school.
It was during this time that Blackwell started to reject the ethos of the radical left, and by the 1980s he had fully converted from Malcolm-X-in-training to a junior Buckleyite. The shift occurred when Blackwell came to an important realization that has managed to evade the black community as a whole since the late 1960s: Liberalism is the problem, not the solution. But he did not limit his vision to the black community. Blackwell adopted a bold stance on government and society that would help to catapult him to the forefront of Ohio politics and make him the political favorite of conservatives throughout the Buckeye state.
He was elected as mayor of Cincinnati in 1979, and there he began making a name for himself as a champion of ideas in the political arena. He wrote a book with Jack Kemp on fiscal responsibility, and as undersecretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, helped create affordable housing in cities by downsizing bureaucracy and eliminating burdensome regulations that caused more problems than they solved. In 1994, he was elected treasurer of Ohio and secretary of state in 1998. In 2004, Blackwell made national headlines when he oversaw the presidential election and held his ground against accusations of voting irregularities throughout Ohio. He maintained that the elections went off without a hitch, and subsequent investigations have proven him right.
Now Ken Blackwell is running for governor, and he may be the Ohio GOP’s last chance at re-establishing political respectability. Blackwell has been a bold critic of his own party, and this hasn’t done him much good in terms of gaining popularity with the tax-and-spend establishment, which has been Republican in name only for too many years. But many voters are hailing Blackwell as the second coming of Ronald Reagan – a popular, witty, gutsy and experienced politician and a rock-ribbed conservative. Everybody knows the Ohio GOP is a mess, and many are refreshed that someone finally is willing to admit that and work for change.
Change is what we need, and Ken Blackwell might be our last chance to make it happen.
Tony Cox is a senior philosophy major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]