In one day, John Kasich managed to make AOC and Donald Trump mad at him. I guess we know why his is the road less traveled.
Standing at a literal crossroads (or was it a fork in the road?) the former Ohio governor did the unthinkable for a man once thought of as a conservative Gingrich Republican: He spoke at the Democratic National Convention on behalf of Joe Biden for president.
“I’m a lifelong Republican, but that attachment holds second place to my responsibility to my country,” Kasich said. “In normal times, something like this would probably never happen, but these are not normal times.”
Conservative voters who can’t stomach Donald Trump’s behavior and rhetoric are grappling over which path to go down. When dire times lead a prominent leader like Kasich across the aisle, it creates a sort of permission structure.
Other prominent Republicans also shared the stage (or livestream, rather). Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, former Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, and former Rep. Susan Molinari of New York, all helped buttress the case to independents and disenchanted Republicans (and, presumably, suburban soccer moms) that Trump is morally unfit and incompetent.
Of course, not all Never Trump conservatives are in agreement about the choice to be made (or even that there are only two paths from which to choose), but Kasich made all the right arguments for Republicans who were open to being nudged.
“I’m sure there are Republicans and independents who couldn’t imagine crossing over to support a Democrat,” Kasich continued, giving a nod to the power of partisanship.
Next, Kasich attacked the notion that Joe Biden is an empty vessel who will be pushed leftward by his party’s progressives. “They fear Joe may turn sharp left and leave them behind,” Kasich explained. “I don’t believe that, because I know the measure of the man.”
Kasich also assured viewers that Joe Biden is “a man of faith”—a sentiment echoed by Michelle Obama (not to mention the opening prayer). And then, he lowered the boom, saying: “No one pushes Joe around.”
This works because it rings true. Yes, Biden has backed down on a few important issues for conservatives like me, starting with abortion. But he has also stood athwart his party, refusing to pander to“woke” Twitter. And he does seem like a big, tough guy who won’t get pushed around.
Truth be told, Kasich has no way of knowing how a Biden administration will play out, but the idea that Biden is immune to the pressure is at least plausible—not least by virtue of the fact that Kasich was invited to speak at this convention.
Indeed, not everyone was happy with the invitation. Feeling slighted by some of Kasich’s comments about her party, Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that Kasich “100% will (and has) signed away our reproductive rights the moment he has the opportunity to do so. He is not a friend to workers.”
This reminded me of the saying that no good deed goes unpunished. Certainly, it was not consistent with the Biden-Kasich message, nor was it helpful (if the goal truly is to woo Republican voters). Then again, AOC got a minute, and Kasich got a real speech—which sort of proves Kasich’s point about Biden.
Republicans got in on the act, too.
“He was a loser as a Republican, and he’ll be a loser as a Democrat,” Donald Trump said.
Legend has it that blues great Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads. In the minds of some Republicans, John Kasich did the same thing on Monday night.
But in their minds, he’s the one who lost his way.