Who should not vote for Ken, beyond doubt? Anyone who holds the following views so strongly that no other issue matters:
Abortion is a woman’s right at any time until the baby is born, or even a bit later.
George W. Bush is so evil that voting for any Republican anywhere could be interpreted as support for Bush’s evil.
All Republicans are the same and bad, and any Democrat is good, without exception.
The legacy media (print, television, radio) always get the story right.
Alright smarty-pants, sez you, so who should vote for Blackwell for governor, other than far-right Christian crazies and mindless Republicans or Bushbots ? Anyone who thinks that the only issues that matter are ensuring dramatic increases in Ohio’s economic growth or dramatic changes to business-as-usual in Columbus. For everyone else, let’s think about politics critically, evaluating the tradeoffs and making the best decision with the information available at the time.
Question 1: Is Ken Blackwell an extremist?
Short answer: No, but he is consistent, competent and experienced, unlike his opponent.
Ken is competent and principled, not extreme. As any effective politician or negotiator must, Ken has compromised his positions during his entire political career, most recently by trading a constitutional amendment to limit state and local spending for a legislative solution to cap state spending. He has never compromised his principles, however, which few other politicians can aver truthfully. Many who are often awarded the accolade of “principled but effective politician” have endorsed Ken for governor, including John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and Jim Petro. As Peter Bronson put it in the Cincinnati Enquirer, “the fact is, Blackwell is no more extreme than most of Ohio. He's a Ronald Reagan conservative who believes gay marriage is wrong, Bill Cosby is right, the liberal welfare state has caused more poverty than racism, and abortion has killed more black people than lynchings.”
By the way, is the other guy an extremist? His ratings by Project Vote Smart, which gives a nonpartisan listing of ratings by interest groups that track how often an office holder voted with the group's agenda, from zero (never) to 100 percent of the time, show consistency, at least before he started running for governor.
• The abortion lobby NARAL:100 percent in 2004 (but only 50 percent in 2005 when he began running for governor).
• The nuke-ban group Nuclear Age Peace Foundation: 100 percent.
• The oldest liberal lobbying group, Americans for Democratic Action: 95 percent in 2005, the same as Ted Kennedy.
• People for the American Way: 77 percent.
• NOW: 86 percent.
'If you look at my record as a congressman, nearly everything I've done as a congressman is nearly identical, in terms of votes and positions I've taken to (Stephanie) Tubbs Jones, Sherrod Brown, Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur,' [Ken Blackwell’s opponent] told a Cincinnati newspaper.
Digging deeper, I tried to compare the candidates’ positions on the issues, but against Blackwell’s specific proposals his opponent offers only platitudes. As I’ve said to many, in this competition of the Champ against the Chump, Blackwell offers concrete policies grounded in enormous familiarity with state government and policy fundamentals, to which his opponent offers merely platitudes. Consider education as an example.
Blackwell’s Education Proposals
Primary and secondary education:
• Allocate 65% of operating budgets to in-classroom instruction to increase classroom spending by $1.2 billion.
• Establish magnet school programs in advanced mathematics, science and foreign languages in all 88 counties.
• Expand vouchers to include special education students
State college and university system:
• Articulation – Use $500 million from proceeds of the Ohio Turnpike lease to increase the effectiveness of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs at universities and attract the best and brightest minds to Ohio's campuses.
• Massification - Create a business community-led task force to evaluate and make market-based recommendations for improving university curriculums.
• Accountability - Determine if individual universities have the necessary courses available to obtain a degree in four years. Ensure Ohio's state supported colleges and universities provide required course work that will allow students to obtain bachelor's degrees in four years.
• Efficiency - Improve transferability of credits between community colleges and four-year institutions.
• Accessibility – Make funding directly follow the student to the state supported higher education institution of their choice. Accessibility for children whose parents died while in military service or as a first responder. Says the Chump
(from his website)
“Education that starts from the beginning, gives a fair chance to every Ohio child and leads to a degree that counts.
“TURNAROUND OHIO starts with early care and education, making sure every child has the chance to start school ready and able to learn. That includes quality early learning experiences, of course. But effective learning depends on effective care: adequate nutrition, timely health care, and behavioral health screenings that keep challenges from becoming problems.
“Children who are ready to learn will do their best in schools that have the right tools and well-prepared teachers to help them learn to be the kind of creative problem-solvers we need for 21st century jobs. From books and technology to more accurate ways to measure proficiency, to providing a richer curriculum, Ohio schools will make the most of each child’s talents.
“And our bright, hard-working graduates will be assured of affordable access to the advanced education they need to move ahead. Any student accepted to a state college or university will have the opportunity to attend, even if their family cannot afford to send them. And, working with universities and community colleges, we’ll find ways to help them control tuition, contain their costs, and serve the needs of a broad range of students, from job-training and adult education to the highest levels of math and science.”
Question 2: Will Blackwell ban abortion?
Short answer: He couldn’t if he wanted to.
Choice regarding abortion will remain the law in Ohio even if Ken Blackwell is elected governor. Justice Kennedy is unlikely to reverse undermine his concurrence in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, so Roe v. Wade is likely to remain the law of the land. Not that reversing Roe would be a bad thing, since judicial usurpation of a contentious issue has perforce driven the debate to the margins, with none of the compromise and accessibility of the legislative process. But deciding whom to vote for as governor on the basis of abortion alone is a lot like refusing to fly in an airplane because it might end up in the Sears Tower. Not impossible, just phobic.
Nonetheless, it is possible that the legislative and executive branch may be restored to their rightful supremacy in the separation of powers. Pursuant to the “culture of life” and demand for greater responsibility that Ken espouses, Ken advocates prohibiting abortion in all circumstances, even to save the life of the mother. Ken’s views are actually more nuanced than his own statements may indicate, however, since he would countenance medical intervention on behalf of the mother even if it was a certainty that the blastopore, embryo, fetus, or baby, as Ken would call it, would die as the result. Even so, his views contradict even the most restrictive reading of Jewish law regarding the permissibility of abortion, which oppose abortion on demand but may go beyond the exceptions that usually exist (danger to mother’s life, rape, and incest). A Rabbi will take psychological factors into account when deciding if an abortion is permissible or rather required. The danger to the mental health of a girl/woman may make abortion permissible under Jewish Law in limited situations.
So must a Jew vote against a politician who advocates a policy that would transgress Jewish law? Of course not. No legislative majority shares Ken’s abolitionist views, and in any case any law that actually passed is likely to include an exception based on religious conscience. So voting for Ken does not in any way put a pro-choice Jew at risk of having to choose between halachah and the laws of Ohio. Besides, one policy does not a decision make, and most candidates at some point or other, including many Jewish ones, have advocated policies that transgress Jewish law.
Question 3: Is Ken good for the Jews, or will he impose a “Cristocracy”?
Short answer: Ken often says “The opposite of a theocracy is not a secular state but one that respects the religious views of all its citizens.”
Like any other community of like-minded individuals, practicing Christians seek to live in a society that reflects their views. Like any other community, they desire and have the right seek to organize around common values and find it convenient to build on networks developed in institutions that support their understanding, adoption, and practice of those common values. The law forbids clergy of tax-exempt religious organizations from endorsing a particular candidate from the pulpit and no more. The US Constitution forbids “the establishment of religion or abridging the free exercise thereof.”
Where is the threat to Jews’ free exercise of religion from “Cristocracy”? Never mind that the values and sources of Christianity are almost identical to Jewish values and sources. Never mind that America is such a unique phenomenon in Christendom and history that hanging American Christians with the historical sins of semi-Christianized European tribes and their rapacious rulers is absurd. Never mind that those complaining most loudly about the Ohio Restoration Project never raised an eyebrow at the use of churches, mostly in the African-American community, for political purposes by left-wing ideology and Democratic candidates. I can only state, as a matter that is obvious to anyone paying attention, that no Christian group in America of any size or influence seeks to have articles of their faith adopted as public policy, such as declamations of the Lord’s Prayer (in any version) or religious tests for holding public office or affirmation of a particular theological view. They only seek to have their morality reflected in the laws of the land, which is the same goal that anyone has in political participation, whether they acknowledge or realize it or not.
The preceding paragraph may have lost some people with occluded reasoning, but let’s return to it’s opening shaila , rephrased: Why do Jews fear those who take Christian religious texts and circumscriptions seriously? I hesitate to ask this question, because I believe the answer may be simply “bigotry”, based, as it always is, in fear. The bigotry of the half-formulated view that religion is a symptom of mental weakness or even mental illness. The belief that goyim in general or Christians in particular cannot be trusted.
Bunk. But let us assume, however, that there are reasons for such fear. Let us name and examine these fears, too:
1. The Christian right doesn’t care about us, they only want and expect Jews to convert or die at the End of Days. As the couple who lead the outreach to social conservatives in Cuyahoga County for Ohioans for Blackwell have often told me, “all my life I’ve been taught that G-d said ‘I will bless the nations through the [Jews],’ ‘those who bless the [Jews] shall be blessed and those who curse them shall be cursed’.” Now, they are Baptists from Parma (The horror! The horror!), so I understand they cannot be trusted to tell the truth to or about a Jew, right? Oy veys mir, such a fair-minded view. Besides, what about Father Coughlin’s radio show in the 1930s, my uncle’s favorite reason for voting for Al Gore in 2000? As my highly educated Catholic friend argued to me vigorously, Jews fail to realize that what Jesus did was not replace Jewish law but to reopen the covenant of Abraham to non-Jews. I don’t believe that for a second, but since it makes him want to study Talmud, I’ll take his word for it and trust in his and other Christians’ goodwill toward Jews.
In any case, better to say, as the old saw goes, “when the Messiah comes, ask him if he’s ever been here before. If he says no, the Christians should convert and if he says yes, the Jews should convert.” Until then, nearly all of the Christian Right has its own unassailable reasons for supporting Jews and Israel that make that support the most reliable in the non-Jewish world today.
2. Whatever the Christian Right may avow now, their real motives are domination and proselytizing, by tricks or by force, just like believing Christians always have and always will. Today, as I said above. “Ay, there’s the rub/ to remember, perchance to relive/ the horrors of the past/ at the expense of the present.” To worry about persecution or abandonment by Christians in America is to fight the last battle (by several) and to fail to face the present challenges with our present allies. Should Israel buy arms and trade with Germany? Absolutely, because they are our friend at the moment, and we need all the friends we can get.
3. Why else would the Christian Right engage in a culture war against freedom of artistic expression and personal liberty? As the Talmud explains, one man in a lifeboat adrift on a sea starts to bore a hole in the boards under his seat… The argument “if you don’t like it don’t watch” has two terrible consequences. First, it sets the home against the outside world, setting the stage for the kind of culture war that we now face. Second, it undermines those parents least able to transmit and those children most in need of values that underlay success. Earlier this year, Dennis Prager hosted his father on his radio show, and one exchange particularly got my attention. Dennis Prager: “Would you say that your environment, your time outside the house, played an important role in your upbringing?” Max Prager: “Oh, absolutely. Home was good for only two things, eating and sleeping.” Most of the problems in our society are the result of self-destructive personal choices. Christians simply want to avoid having to fight the rest of society to raise healthy children.
4. Homosexuals are not hurting anyone, so why can’t the Christian Right leave them alone? The war on marriage has been explored in depth elsewhere, so suffice it to say here that efforts to change the institution of marriage go beyond tolerance into acceptance. No one wants to go on a witch hunt for homosexuals, but conservatives, Christian or otherwise, do not want to be forced to accept and support personal choices that they oppose and may view as inimical to the social order. Are they wrong? You may think so, but shame on you if you want to deny others the integrity of their beliefs.
5. Ken Blackwell either leads or obeys the Christian Right in its nefarious means and ends with no real regard for the Jews. How do you know? How do you distinguish this view from any other conspiracy view that Jews have suffered from? Do Christians support Ken for his views or does Ken hold his views to gain Christians’ support? For this answer, I can best refer you to Ken’s biography at www.kenblackwell.com or his recent book, “Rebuilding America: A Prescription for Creating Strong Families, Building the Wealth of Working People, And Redeveloping Our Cities,” in which he lays out well-reasoned bases for his views that have as much to do with thought and experience as religion, and nothing to do with religious authority. As one who has met the man repeatedly, looked him in the eye, watched him in public and semi-private, and watched him espouse views that would hurt him politically, I can assure you that it simply is not in his nature to do what he is told. Oh, and did I mention he’s Catholic, a Papist corrupted by Roman mummery? “America, what a great country!”.
6. The other guy is as pro-Israel as Ken, so a good-for-the-Jews analysis is a wash anyway. Is Israel the only issue affecting Jews? For example, every hashkafa / movement / stream of American Judaism has come to two conclusions. First, the real threat of Jews’ survival as a nation in America is that America may love us to death, through assimilation and eager acceptance. Second, a Jewish education in general and (an expensive!) private day school education in particular is essential to the survival of American Jewry as Jews. Ken’s views on school choice and ensuring a quality education supports the needs of our community and the rest of the American public, while the other guy’s views and core supporters are hostile to those needs. Besides, Ken favors vouchers in areas that would help the poorest Ohioans, Jews or otherwise, get a quality education the public schools fail to offer, including, if he can get it through, Cleveland Heights.
What especially disheartens me about Jews who fear that Ken seeks to impose or would abet the imposition of a theocracy is its utter absurdity in general and its ludicrousness in particular with regard to Ken. Even if the difference between the candidates were a matter of degree, such are the differences that matter. John Kerry’s view that Israel has a qualified right to defend itself, limited by proportionality, may differ in degree from George W. Bush’s view that “Israel has a right to defend itself”, without reservation, but that distinction has made an enormous difference.
But the difference between Ken and his opponent is so enormous as to be a difference in kind, not just degree. Just the highlights of Ken’s Jewish resume are extraordinary, let alone its full depth and breadth.
• In the 1970’s, Teddy Kollek invited Ken to serve on the International Jerusalem Committee, the youngest member and the only American elected official on the committee.
• In the 1980’s, as deputy American ambassador to the UN, Ken worked successfully with another diplomat named John Bolton to repeal the “Zionism = Racism” resolution of the General Assembly.
• Since the early 1990’s, Ken has served as a member of the board of directors of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), most recently working on a JINSA initiative to foster a tripartite alliance between the US, Israel, and India.
We owe hakaras hatov, a debt of gratitude, to someone who has done more for Jews than most Jewish politicians. He has his own sources of ahavas yisroel, no matter how they differ (or maybe “not so much” ) from ours, a complete lack of shanda about sticking up for Jews, and political gains from his party’s base for supporting Israel.
And let’s review that last point. Whose party can be trusted with Israel’s safety, Ken’s or his opponent’s? A Los Angeles Times poll on August 17, 2006 reported that 75% of Republicans thought Israel’s actions against Hezbollah were justified, compared to only 49% of Democrats. Similarly, 64% of Republicans thought the US should continue to align with Israel, compared to only 39% of Democrats. So who should a true Zionist want to see elected to a potentially president-making position in 2008?
Question 4: Does Columbus really need another Republican? Isn’t it time for a change?
Short answer: Yes, and Ken has the record, principles and experience to reverse course in Columbus.
So all Republicans are the same, eh? I beg to differ. In 1999 the Cincinnati Enquirer called Ken Blackwell “the anti-Taft”. The paper wanted to hurt Ken, but no other appellation could capture how much Ken would disrupt the culture of corruption and incompetence in Columbus. While a Republican for over 35 years, Ken has a history of bucking his party, criticizing it, and handing it a black eye when he thought it deserved it. Here are just a few of his most recent turns in opposition to the leadership of his own party:
He opposed, no-holds-barred, an increase in the state sales tax, and won a reduction in the rate.
As state auditor, he proposed reforms that would have prevented the abuse and fraud at the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, only to be stopped by then-Governor Taft and the Republican leadership in the legislature.
He championed the TEL (Tax Expenditure Limitation) Amendment in the teeth of opposition from his party’s leadership.
Compared with Ken’s three decades of experience in Columbus, the other guy knows nothing about how the state capitol works and is not even effective in Washington, D.C., where he is supposed to have a clue. In 2005, Congress.org ranked him the 402nd “most effective” Congressman, and 430th “most influential” out of 438 listed representatives, after the non-voting delegates from the U.S. Virgin Islands (385) and American Samoa (356). He also missed more House votes than all but two representatives, according to the Washington Post.
Ken’s priorities are Ohio’s priorities and not the social issues that are used to scare most Jewish voters away from Ken. He has identified five priorities for his administration:
1. Taxation: No state ever taxed and spent itself into prosperity. If we want to stay and have our children stay in Ohio, we have to stop chasing out the most talented and successful members of our society. Another favorite quote from Ken is that
2 and 3. Regulation and Litigation: Ohio has prioritized security too much and liberty and economic growth too little.
4. Education: More money needs to be spent in the classroom, and administrators and educators can and must seek efficiencies too.
5. Health care: Medicaid is eating up the state’s budget, and we can and must seek efficiencies without harming care.
What’s not here? G-d, guns, gays, abortion, or any of the other wedge issues that his opponents try to use to separate Jews from voting their interests.
Finally, Ken has raised most of his money from small and new donors, as well as drawing on many volunteers to fill the ranks of his campaign. As in 2004, the Cuyahoga County team expects to rely on volunteers to win, in sharp contrast to the bloated budgets for paid staff wielded by the other guy’s allies and the substantial reliance for support among entrenched interests in Columbus, not least of which are unions. Ken will not owe anyone his victory and can act independently in pursuing the best interests of the people of Ohio; the other guy will owe nearly everybody and have little of his own experience or knowledge to rely on.
Are a candidate’s character and integrity your top priorities?
Short answer: Character and integrity should matter most when deciding between candidates.
During my internships at state and federal legislatures, I came to understand that many of the decisions faced by legislators are matters of common sense opposed to venality hidden by sanctimony and pandering. In contrast, Ken says, “you may not like my positions, but with me you’ll always know where I stand.” The other guy, on the other hand, is full of contradictions. Here are just a few:
a gun rights supporter who does not own a gun,
a Methodist minister “on leave from the ministry” who has never been pastor to a congregation,
a proponent of “family values” who has no children.
Too often, I hear my fellow citizens bellyache about how shifty and deceptive and corrupt politicians are, lacking political courage or independence from donors or what have you. You may disagree with many of Ken’s positions or agree with where the other guy may finally come down, but here’s your chance to strike a blow for integrity in the political process.
What about the election fraud?
Short answer: Bogus. See “Democrats keep leveling charges at Blackwell they can't back up,” Joe Hallett, The Columbus Dispatch, Sunday, June 11, 2006, excerpted below.
“. . . Blackwell stirred a firestorm by writing rules to implement House Bill 3, the election-reform law that took effect May 2. One rule requires people who are paid for registering voters to personally take forms signed by new voters to boards of election offices or face a fifth-degree felony. Typically, signature collectors turn over the forms to groups sponsoring voter-registration drives that then deliver them en masse to election officials.
“Democrats were outraged, complaining that the rule could shut down efforts to register new voters. Who in Westerville, for example, would want to collect new-voter signatures and risk becoming a felon for not personally driving them the 15 miles to the county election board in Downtown Columbus? The Ohio League of Women Voters called the rule goofy and said it would imperil voter-registration drives using volunteers. Lee Fisher, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, said the rule adds to the 'ample evidence that Ken Blackwell has manipulated the election system to disenfranchise voters.’ . . . .
“But Blackwell has a strong counterargument: The rule he wrote simply follows the law. Indeed, it does appear to do that. Critics might more appropriately aim their ire at the GOP-controlled legislature and demand that it change the law.
“Doing that, however, would deny Democrats a new opportunity to use Blackwell as a scapegoat. They haven't stopped blaming him for Sen. John Kerry's loss to President Bush in the 2004 presidential election, never mind that Kerry told The Dispatch just a month ago that he did not lose the election because of fraud. . . .
“The latest to enter the fray is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who authored a long story in the June 3 issue of Rolling Stone titled: 'Was the 2004 election stolen? ' Kennedy's conclusion: 'I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004.' Kennedy's chief villain is Blackwell. If you read Kennedy's story, make sure to go to Salon.com and read the rebuttal by Farhad Manjoo, a Salon staff writer, who spent a year exhaustively studying the Ohio election rather than, a la Kennedy, dipping his toe into it 19 months later. Writes Manjoo, 'If you do read Kennedy's article, be prepared to machete your way through numerous errors of interpretation and his deliberate omission of key bits of data.
“That warning is echoed by my colleague Mark Niquette, who closely covered and dissected the election aftermath. Cutting through the swirl of conspiracy theories about how Blackwell helped Republicans steal the election, Niquette told me that the critics conveniently neglect one crucial fact: Stealing the Ohio election for Bush would have required widespread complicity by Democrats.
“Ohio has a bipartisan election system with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans at the county level, where elections are actually run, Niquette said. For the massive fraud outlined in stories such as Kennedy's to have occurred without being exposed at the time, scores of Democratic election officials and hundreds of lawyers for Kerry in Ohio would have had to have been bought off, incompetent or both.
“Kennedy rails about the woefully inadequate number of voting machines in Franklin County's inner-city precincts, but with bipartisan approval, a Democrat decided where the machines would be placed. Kennedy accuses Blackwell of twisting the rules on provisional ballots to help Bush block Democratic votes but neglects to mention that 32 other states have the same rules for counting such ballots and that Ohio's rate for counting them was 77 percent, the third highest in the nation.”
So reporters and columnists for the Columbus Dispatch and Salon, both having shown editorial and publisher bias against Ken, both confirm that the charges against him are baseless. Flail away, my liberal friends, but don’t expect voters to believe you.
Fine, whatever, but can he win?
Short answer: Yes; opinion polling methods are inaccurate to the point of being obsolete.
Remember that in 2004 Kerry led in the polls by ten points with three months to go. Opinion polls have gotten worse since the summer, apparently, but here’s three reasons why opinion polls are increasingly unreliable and irrelevant:
1. Back to the future: As more people rely solely on cell phones, telephone polls (that do not include cell phone numbers) lose their randomization. Dewey beats Truman, anyone?
2. Polls consistently underestimate GOP turnout and overestimate Democrats’ motivation.
3. Voters must provide ID or the last four digits of their social security number to prove eligibility to vote. While I steadfastly insist on principle that anyone who can’t or won’t provide ID properly should not be allowed to vote, I acknowledge that the political impact of this provision is likely to hurt Democrats’ relative turnout. The pollsters, however, aren’t measuring propensity to comply with voting requirements.
Finally, Democrats have followed a losing strategy (“We are not them, so vote for us”) and made this election a referendum on Ken Blackwell. The reason I have refrained from giving “the other guy” a name is that as of a July 23rd poll (for what it’s worth), 65% of Ohioans had never heard of him. The Democrats’ reasoning seems to be a replay of their efforts in 2004 – we just need a candidate that won’t offend anyone – and the Republicans’ reasoning in the New York senatorial races in 2000 – HRC’s negatives are above 44%, so we only need to get a few more points against her – and 1998 – forget D’Amato, Schumer is terrible. This strategy consistently loses, as the Republican Party proved for the second half of the 20th century until 1994, when their candidates for the US House of Representatives ran on a 10 point platform that offered a genuine and positive alternative to the party in power. Americans are more likely to vote for someone they like than against someone they despise.
Democrats, of course, will cry foul unless they win the election and contrast opinion poll results with voting poll results. Someday, perhaps, they’ll learn that the only true measure of the popular is votes in the ballot box. When voters look beyond the biased reports and hysteria, they will see that their state will fare well with Ken Blackwell, and he will win - the most votes in Ohio, the governor’s office, and in the process change the face of American politics for a generation.
Daniel Cord is the coordinator of Jewish outreach for the Cuyahoga County Steering Committee of Ohioans for Blackwell. He lives in Shaker Heights, OH and is general counsel of a health care company.