Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The issue Ken Blackwell hopes we don't talk about

Much speculation has been made as to whether Secretary of State Ken Blackwell may get a 3 to 4 percent boost in the general election by attracting larger amounts of African-American voters than what GOP candidates typically get (that's how much Blackwell would gain in the general by getting over 40% of the African-American vote in Ohio versus the 12% GOP candidates typically get.) Blackwell's strategy is to create a coalition between social and fiscal conservatives within the GOP with African-American voters who tend to be more socially conservative than white Democratic voters. And so long as Blackwell can stick to gay marriage and abortion, they'll be few problems in his coalition.

However, there's one issue that if it gets any attention could disrupt and destroy this harmonious coalition. One issue that if any attention is given to it could leave both potential white and African-American voters reconsidering their support for Blackwell. So far, this issue hasn't registered so much as a blip in voter's minds. As long as that doesn't change, Blackwell is fine.

That issue? Affirmative action.

For Blackwell's white conservative supporters, Blackwell's support for affirmative action would be considered heresy. To them, affirmative action is part of a litmus test. It's part of what defines a person to be conservative, it's not an issue where you can be a conservative with this notable exception. And Ken Blackwell has not left himself much room to try and wiggle out of his past support, either. Blackwell opposed enacting a state law that would forbid the use of race as a factor in state government contracting, employment, and admission to Ohio universities.

However, his record in supporting affirmative action isn't going to excite supporters of affirmative action, either. The last time affirmative action was seriously in the American's political dialogue was during the U.S. Supreme Court's consideration of the Michigan affirmative action cases, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger in 2003. Although the White House could have avoided the issue altogether, President Bush ordered that the federal government submit briefs in both cases opposing the University of Michigan's use of race as an admission factor. And instead of respectfully disagreeing with the President's anti-affirmative action views as he did with Steve Forbes, Ken Blackwell sided with, and publicly defended, the President's position.

During the President's announcement of the federal government's opposition to the University of Michigan's affirmative action program, President Bush said:
"At the law school, some minority students are admitted to meet percentage targets while other applicants with higher grades and better scores are passed over. This means that students are being selected or rejected based primarily on the color of their skin. The motivation for such an admissions policy may be very good, but its result is discrimination and that discrimination is wrong."
A few days later, Ken Blackwell applauded the President's stance.
"He was silent on whether it was a compelling national interest to advance diversity, and I think his silence means on that matter the status quo is sufficient."
Months later, the United States Supreme Court gave its voice to replace the President's silence. In a 5-4 decision in Grutter, the Court reiterated that advancing diversity is a compelling national interest.

Therefore, during this campaign, as both candidates talk about jobs, it'll be interesting to see what Ken Blackwell specifically says about changing the course in this state for how minority-owned businesses have done in Ohio, and how he'll try to chart a course to keep both his conservative and African-American brethren on board.

1 comment:

Pope Urban II said...

Terrific post. Great insight.

While I disagree that this is the only issue that could dismantle the potential for Blackwell to lose votes from conservatives, it is a point on which Blackwell could certainly lose votes by rendering other conservatives to simply stay home on election day.

Congratulations on your graduation from Cincinnati Law.