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That Old Blackwell 'Magic'

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Ken Blackwell, my personal muse, ex-Facebook friend, and endorsement for RNC Chair, defended rival candidate Chip Saltsman for distributing "Barack the Magic Negro" on his holiday mix CD.

BLACKWELL: "Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-Elect Obama being the first African-American elected president. I don't think any of the concerns that have been expressed in the media about any of the other candidates for RNC chairman should disqualify them. When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people."

How offensive is "Barack the Magic Negro"? A year or so ago, a student of mine in my documentary class decided to make his film about that song, playing a recording of Rush Limbaugh's show to other black people like himself, and capturing their reactions. While many interviewees were speechless, their faces can be best described in three letters: WTF?

The defenses of the song's context being funny, as if Al Sharpton were singing it, only illustrate the layers of insulting thought that went into it. It's rudimentary racism, like blackface.

Obviously, different people have different reactions, and there can be no steadfast line in racial politics. Blackwell has been affectionately called "Buckwheat" by a Cincinnati blogger he knows, is that offensive? Or is it part of how someone like Blackwell ingratiates himself with far right whites, fitting in like no other black person they know?

Consider this thoughtful statement from Yvonne Davis, an African-American Republican, which she wrote here on the Huffington Post in response to Blackwell's statement on the "Magic Negro" flap:

The truth is Blackwell or any black running for this post can't have it both ways - on one hand support racist stupidity by being silent or playing it down, and on another hand try to leverage the fact that a Black man going into the White House is an opportunity for a black man to lead the Republican Party.

I respectfully, but vehemently, disagree with Ms. Davis. Trying to have it both ways is exactly what Blackwell intends to do.

In The Washington Times, Blackwell just wrote about how dated the 1965 Voting Rights Act is, which he calls "draconian" :

This country has clearly progressed beyond yesterday's racism. And the law should not give one party an overwhelming advantage to invoke the mistakes of the past for partisan advantage.

When it comes to suppressing black voters, Blackwell's career of abusing laws for partisan advantage rivals the record of any Southern Sheriff named Jim Crow. I made a feature documentary about Ken Blackwell's election, FREE FOR ALL!, and still couldn't fit in all of his outrageous illegal behavior. Ken Blackwell has been sued more times than Don King. Just some of Blackwell's greatest hits on his African-American constituents while he was Secretary of State:

• Purging a quarter of Cleveland voters, one of the biggest Democratic counties in the country.
• Under-equipping African-American neighborhood voting precincts.
• Re-arranging voting locations and not making the information publicly available.
• Going to court to prevent people who voted in their old location from being counted provisionally.
• Pushing voter ID laws through Ohio, which overwhelmingly affect poor minorities access to vote.
• Allowing coordinated racial profiling voter misinformation to flourish: Fliers in black neighborhoods providing the wrong election day, phone calls threatening arrest if people voted.
• Threatened U.N. election monitors with arrest if they tried to observe the polls.

The Voting Rights Act is the only defense some people have. Without it, many would not be able to vote, with no recourse. Race is still very much an issue in elections, and Blackwell knows it. Voter disenfranchisement of minorities was widely documented throughout the country in 2008 by Video the Vote among other groups.

Blackwell is eager to get to be the guy who gets to declare, "If I say it's not racist, it's not." The Republican Party is eager to have that plausible deniability, as they continue to target Democratic-voting minorities with unfounded attacks like the 2008 Swift Boat, ACORN.

The only other thing clear from Blackwell's Op-Ed piece is that he is telling the conservative readers of The Washing Times that what he offers is not how he will win the party more supporters, but how he will preemptively control the vote-counting to edge out more minorities.

To further buttress his case for RNC Chairmanship, Blackwell just released a list of "conservative luminaries" who endorse him as RNC Chair. It reads like a list of guest-stars from The Love Boat, and their ideas were most relevant back when Gavin MacLeod was a pinup. Phyllis Schafly? Ed Meese? Is this the re-branding and forward thinking the GOP is looking for right now after losing Congress and the White House to a generation that doesn't need landlines?

Of course Ken Blackwell will jump up when the old right is looking for a new shill. His opportunistic drive has driven him from activist to a chameleon politician to a multi-millionaire. He has changed positions like a porno queen.

Others have vied for that insider status that seems to require possessing, among other qualities, a white penis. And beyond the conventional qualifications, these people have gone to incredible, illegal lengths to help the Republican Party realize its power grabs without having to win "votes." And these power plays come at the expense of other non-white-penis-having persons.

Where would the RNC be without Katherine Harris, the brazen Bush partisan who stretched the limits of her authority as Secretary of State to swipe Florida's electoral votes? Back in 1999, she and Gov. Jeb had worked closely with Choice Point/Data Base Technology to kick off black voter registrations under the felon laws, knowing they were disenfranchising tens of thousands of legal voters. She stopped the Florida Recount when W. was up by a handful, and turned it over to the Bush Daddy's court. And yet, when she sought to be Senator in 2006, she was openly rebuked by her old boss and fellow theocrat Jeb Bush. Poor Katherine Harris was so hard up in the waning months of her doomed campaign, she announced plans to tap into several million from her family's trust fund.

And how far would the Republican Party and the Bush Administration have gotten if they did not have Alberto Gonzales as both Bush's personal lawyer, then Attorney General? Who else was on hand to write torture memos, lie to Congress, and play "plausible deniability" as Federal Prosecutors under him were sacked for not bringing bogus voter fraud cases? Who got the job of justifying the treatment of foreigners and illegal immigrants as terrorists, while acknowledging that his own grandparents were probably illegal? His recent claim, "I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror," indicates how well he feels he's been taken care of since he helped buy time for the Bush Regime. Is he worse a casualty than David Iglesias?

Maybe Blackwell thinks he's "magic" and is different. Blackwell magically reaped tens of millions from an investment he made as Ohio State Treasurer, through a loan he received from banks he was already conducting state business with. Maybe Blackwell thinks his sincere repetition of "family" issues, as if the term suggests policy in itself, will magically not seem like hackneyed bloviating considering his son was caught cheating on the bar exam two separate times and arrested for weed.

But since the untimely plane crash of Mike Connell, the GOP tech guru who appeared at suspect elections like Zelig, Blackwell might not be as "magic" anymore. Mike Connell built Blackwell's campaign websites as well as secretary of state site, and in ways we may never know, Blackwell might not be as technically effective without his go-to guy.

If the RNC chooses Ken Blackwell as its Chair to lead the party forward, it will be a brazen acknowledgment that they have no ideas or policy to peddle other than the canned politics of an opportunistic reactionary as the Party's face. And it will announce a cynical embrace of tired Republican strategy for exploiting voters along racial lines.