I feel like, before I begin, this piece requires a whole host of qualifying statements just to make clear where I’m coming from:
First, I fundamentally believe that John Kasich is wrong, and would be dangerously wrong as President. Trickle-down economics, the central tenet of his economic plan, does not work on an elementary level: every time someone has tried to implement it, it has fallen far short of expectation, caused deficits to skyrocket, and has damn near crashed our economy on a number of occasions. I also believe that regulations keep our economy working fairly, morally, and safely. The goal of industry is first and foremost to produce profit, and one must therefore operate under the assumption that these industries will be functioning at the very limits of what is allowed in order to pursue these profits with no regard for the safety of consumers, the economy at large, and the country as a whole. Since they do not auto-regulate, the government must do it for them, and this includes broad safety regulations to ensure consumer safety, stringent oversight to prevent the recklessness of unhinged greed, and moves including taxes and new laws requiring such industries to operate in a way which is responsible with regards to both the planet and their workers (climate impact regulation, for example, will be seen by future generations, if we make it that far, as common-sense measures on par with child labor laws, the minimum wage, and general pollution rules).
Second, Kasich’s foreign policy, specifically his talk of ISIS and the need for “Western Civilization” to band together and fight this supposed existential threat, is Deus lo Vult Crusade-y in a really uncomfortable way. Just putting that out there.
Third, I do not support John Kasich in any capacity. I’m actually currently rooting for Donald Trump in the Republican race because his election would cause the party to both lose in November and also explode, causing a political realignment the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Sixties, which would be pretty cool. At least I hope that’s what happens. And if it comes down to John Kasich and–God forbid–Hillary Clinton, then I’m going to hold my nose, look past the blind ambition, characteristic personal dishonesty, and lack of real political values and vote Hillary.
Fourth, John Kasich is not the moderate he’s making himself out to be. He’s vehemently anti-abortion, opposed to action on climate change, in favor of cutting education, and really pro-fracking. So all this talk of him as the most centrist candidate in the race is pretty absurd, even if he did give the pretty legendary answer of “When I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have to answer for what I’ve done for the poor” when asked why he expanded Medicaid.
So with all that in mind, I thought Kasich gave a really good speech after finishing second in New Hampshire on Tuesday. His speech was, in its purest essence, the thoughtful, considerate articulation of conservative values that has been totally lacking from this shitshow of a Republican race so far. For once, instead of insulting his opponents, combining military jingoism with evangelical Christianity all while mainlining black tar constitutionalism, dispelling once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing (he knows exactly what he’s doing), falling asleep at various points in the debate process, harkening back to the good old days when daddy was president, or doing whatever the hell Jim Gilmore does (I think that’s all of them), Kasich made an emotional call for restoring heart and compassion to American life. This is a message that could win the Republicans the White House in the 2016, if only they want to listen. Unlike banning Muslims, carpet bombing women and children, or bringing back the tithe, this is actually something that resonates with a lot of people. In many ways, this speech set Kasich (not Trump or Clinton) up as the anti-Bernie. Both arrived at their positions from places of moral sympathy for the plight of others, or at least pretend to, and make that the centerpiece of their message. For Bernie, the plight of the less fortunate stems from the continued abuse of the middle and working class by the rich and powerful, and the solution lies in ambitious social programs making it more livable to live in America. For Kasich, the problem comes from a general decline in sympathetic morality and can be fixed with a reaffirmation of familial and traditional social values, rather than the government. Again, I don’t agree with this, but it’s a very convincing argument. The resulting picture, of an America united in love of one’s neighbor and mutual support, is both nostalgic and inspiring, and is the closest I’ve seen to a winning argument among conservatives. Instead of rehashing specific policy ideas and blankly opposing what President Obama has done, Kasich made a good case for being a conservative, seeking to appeal to voters outside his party’s ideological base.
This, of course, means that Kasich is totally fucked for the primary. When 60 percent of the Republican electorate is voting for Cruz, Trump, and Carson combined, there’s not a whole lot of space for more establishment candidates, moderate as Kasich might not be, especially when one of them seems young and charismatic while the other is named Bush. Kasich isn’t conservative enough to get any sort of support in today’s party, especially given that he’s only really been campaigning in New Hampshire and has neither the ground game nor the cash to run a more extensive campaign. But this message of compassionate conservatism, tempered by fiscal moderation, would be a very tough one to beat. In the case of a possible Trump victory, where half the electorate embraces the anti-establishment and the other half wants no part in it, it would be a refreshing change to see Kasich’s message embraced by a large amount fo Republicans. That new party would add a lot to the political discourse and would give Democrats a run for their money. So basically, if you take one thing away from this article, vote Trump, sit back, and watch the fireworks.