We’re experiencing an election season like no other. The two major political parties in the U.S. find themselves in the unique predicament of elections dominated by party outsiders. Fox News aptly calls it a “voter revolt”: for both the Democratic and the Republican parties, fringe candidates, Senator Bernie Sanders (a Social Democrat) and real estate mogul Donald Trump, have gained momentum and have a real chance of becoming the party nominees in the upcoming general election (Trump more so than Sanders). Although the political establishment in both parties would have preferred that Trump and Sanders not run for president, each party strategically welcomed them into their fold as mainstream candidates rather than encouraging them to run as independents, which would have diverted a non-negligible percentage of voters away from their party in the general election. Thus, both the Democratic and the Republican Parties took a calculated risk that the fringe candidates would ultimately lose in the primaries and not draw votes from their endorsed candidates when it came time for voting for America’s president. It’s not clear that this calculated risk will pay off. Because, currently, it’s the American people—more specifically, voter discontent with the Washington establishment–that are leading the atypical direction of the primaries.
A significant proportion of both Republican and Democratic voters are registering their disappointment with their respective parties by voting in unexpectedly large numbers for Trump and Sanders. Trump is particularly seductive for the angry mob congregating around him, more as an act of vengeance against the establishment than of political support. This is the best explanation I have read for Donald Trump’s dangerous populist appeal, given by one of his supporters, John Moore:
“I think of Donald Trump not as a candidate but as a weapon. A weapon which I intend to use recklessly and carelessly in pursuit of a political Gotterdammerung. I am totally uninterested in criticisms and in the supposed qualities of other candidates. The disgust and anger I feel permits no other choice. With any luck, he might be a good President. The most important thing right now, though, is to wreak vengeance on the establishment.” (John Moore, Facebook)
To complicate the situation on the Republican side further, the second most popular candidate, Ted Cruz, although part of the establishment (a Senator from Texas), has alienated fellow party members. So part of the Republican establishment is now conducting a high-stakes strategy game on how to get its two unendorsed yet most popular candidates—Trump and Cruz—beaten by an endorsed Republican candidate who can also win the general election. Many seemed to have settled on Marco Rubio, a young senator from Florida. Although Rubio did poorly in the New Hampshire debate and primary, several important members of the Republican party have backed him and are pressuring moderate Republican John Kasich, the Governor of Ohio, to follow Jeb Bush’s lead and opt out of the election in order to consolidate Republican votes in the primaries around Rubio. They stipulate that the longer the Republican establishment remains divided among multiple candidates the greater the odds that Trump or Cruz, the two frontrunners, will win the Republican nomination.
Fortunately for American voters, Governor Kasich has decided to continue his campaign for President, focusing on the primaries in the Midwest, particularly Michigan and Ohio. I believe that John Kasich is the most qualified Republican candidate and urge fellow Michigan voters to take note of his positive campaign and vote for him in the upcoming open primaries on March 8. So far the Republican primaries have been dominated by negative considerations: public fears and anxieties (particularly pertaining to the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.); mudslinging and bullying of candidates, and false allegations (made mostly by members of the Cruz campaign staff). When we vote for President of the United States, however, we vote for the issues we care about and for the person we believe can help bring them to fruition, not against someone or something.
I’m glad to see that throughout this negative campaigning, fear mongering, and process of elimination strategizing, Governor John Kasich has stood firm and remains focused on all the positives he has to offer America: namely, his vast political experience; success in economic policies as Governor of Ohio, and a moderate position on many of the social issues that divide our nation. To offer just a few examples: John Kasich, elected as Governor of Ohio in 2010 and reelected in 2014, has eliminated an 8 billion dollar budget deficit (or, if you accept the Cleveland Plain Dealer figures, a 6 billion dollar deficit) and created a 2 billion dollar surplus for Ohio. That is quite an accomplishment.
Kasich has also served in the United States House of Representatives from 1983 to 2001. He has participated for 18 years in the House Armed Services Committee and six years as Chairman of the House Budget Committee. Starting with the 1990’s, he was a main proponent of balancing the federal budget, which remains one of his top priorities.
On most social issues, Kasich is a Republican with a progressive streak. On the issue of abortion, however, he holds a conservative position. Kasich is staunchly pro-life and has passed several measures to de-fund Planned Parenthood. The issue of abortion remains hotly debated and divisive in our country because it’s a deeply personal moral issue. Many of us have friends and relatives on both sides of the debate and we respect them, without necessarily sharing, their views. What I would like to emphasize, however, both as a woman and as a feminist writer, is that being pro-life doesn’t mean that Kasich is anti-women or against women’s rights, as some have charged recently. The Governor has appointed several women while in office, including his campaign manager (Beth Hansen), his Lieutenant Governor (Mary Taylor) and his appointment to the Ohio Supreme Court (Judith French). We should also keep in mind that, on the issue of abortion, Kasich’s personal ethical stance coincides with the majority of his Republican constituency, to whom he’s answerable. I believe that if and when Republican voters’ views will shift in Ohio and throughout the country, probably so will the public policies of Republican Party leaders. As a case in point, on the issue of gay marriage, Kasich maintains a moderate stance. Although the Governor personally believes in traditional marriage, he declared that he will respect the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell V. Hodges which argued that the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the right to same-sex marriage. Kasich’s political views reflect a change in public opinion. Over the past six or seven years, there has been a significant shift for Republican voters and therefore also for the Republican party leaders on the issue of gay marriage. It is no longer the controversial, hot-button topic that it was in 1994.
On economic issues touching mainstream America, Kasich is what can fairly be called a compassionate conservative, which is part of why his candidacy has great appeal across party boundaries. He has supported Medicaid-expansion funding provided by Obamacare in Ohio, something not favored by many mainstream Republicans. At the same time, he is against Obamacare, which he claims has vastly increased the cost of healthcare in Ohio. Governor Kasich plans to replace it with a more affordable and less costly healthcare plan that will foster greater competition among insurance companies.
For me, as a first-generation legal immigrant coming to the United States during the 1980s from Communist Romania, the problem of immigration is especially relevant. On the issue of illegal immigration, which the Trump campaign has brought to the foreground, Kasich’s stance is both humane and pragmatic. Although the Governor supports tightening the borders to impede further illegal immigration, unlike Trump and Cruz, he is against establishing a Gestapo-style “deportation force” that would round up illegal immigrants, yank them from their homes, and toss them out of the country. As someone currently working on a history book about the Holocaust, I would also caution that if actually implemented, Trump’s policy would set a dangerous precedent reminiscent in some respects of the Fascist era.
By way of contrast, Governor Kasich proposes a viable solution to the problem of illegal immigration. Although he does not suggest a path to citizenship for all illegal immigrants, he supports a path to granting them legal status, so that if they pay taxes and meet the requirements, they can eventually work, drive and raise their children in this country. His view is that most illegal immigrants are not rapists and murderers, as Trump’s incendiary rhetoric might suggest, but rather people who, like generations of previous immigrant American families, are looking for better opportunities for themselves and their children. They pursued those opportunities through illegal means, however, which is why they can’t automatically be granted citizenship status.
Governor John Kasich offers a unique combination of ample political experience and common sense policies that can help our country flourish. Although definitely a mainstream Republican, he negotiates well with the Democrats. We need someone capable of bilateral collaboration if we want to overcome the current stalemate and accomplish anything in this country. Unlike some of the other candidates, who feed voter anxieties and even hatred by focusing on identifying internal and external enemies, Kasich offers “a positive vision for America”. In the upcoming general election, the Governor’s nuanced and reasonable positions can attract a wide range of voters. At the same time, he is the mainstream Republican candidate his party currently needs: the one that, if given the Republican nomination, has the best chance of becoming America’s next President.
My own state, Michigan, will hold open primaries on March 8th. Regardless of your voting history and party affiliation, I urge fellow Michiganders to take a serious look at Governor John Kasich’s sound policies and vast political experience and to vote for him in the primary.
Claudia Moscovici, author of Velvet Totalitarianism: Post-Stalinist Romania