What I would have to see from John Kasich to support him

What I would have to see from John Kasich to support him March 30, 2016

John_Kasich_by_Gage_Skidmore

Let’s say the unthinkable happens this July in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention and the Republican elites are somehow able to pull off a coup (without getting massacred by gun-toting Donald Trump supporters) in order to give their nomination to their only remaining candidate who can win in the general election, John Kasich. I’ve often wondered if a moderate Republican like Kasich would be better able to accomplish what I’d like to see happen than a triangulating New Democrat like Hillary Clinton. So in case John Kasich’s people read progressive evangelical Christian blogs to figure out how they can win our votes, here is what I would need to see to support John Kasich.

1) An open acknowledgment of and repentance for Republican racism

 The specter of Trumpism gives Kasich a unique opportunity to engage in public repentance on behalf of his party. Trump’s campaign has laid completely bare the coded racist discourse that some Republicans have used for the past several decades to win the white working class vote. Until I see open repentance for the completely contemptuous disrespect that has been shown for the past eight years to our first black president, a man whom I’ve never seen behave dishonorably however right or wrong his ideas are, I will never be able to vote for a Republican.

In a recent speech, Paul Ryan had enough integrity to acknowledge his flaws and his role in creating today’s acrimonious political climate. It would be huge to see Kasich speak with prophetic truth about his party’s cynical use of racism and show his repentance by sitting down with representatives of Black Lives Matter to begin an open-minded dialogue about concrete ways that our government can be healed of its systemic racism. Though I recognize Kasich can’t and won’t adopt every Black Lives Matter demand, if he listens seriously and considers their perspective practically, that would show me a lot.

2) A vision for the common good

 Kasich has already gotten my attention because of his willingness to break with the hard-line orthodoxy of other Republican governors and expand Medicaid for his state because he thought it was the right thing to do. What I need to see from him is a comprehensive vision for the common good. The Reagan era of American politics has defined the common good solely in terms of its burden on individual taxpayers. There has been no positive vision other than to say with utopian naivete that the market will solve everything. The past three decades have revealed this utopianism to be a failure.

I’m not saying that the federal government needs to be the only entity charged with the common good. I just want to see a vision that isn’t ideological but nuanced and thoughtful. If Kasich thinks the common good needs to be maintained through private, local efforts, what is he going to do to support these efforts? “The church will handle it” is not a valid answer. Most churches are struggling to survive right now. The ones that are thriving spend most of their budgets on building state of the art worship spaces to attract the crowds. Most middle class people like me feel like they can’t engage in philanthropy because they’re saving up for their kids’ college tuition and their retirements. I need Kasich to show me how he thinks the whole thing fits together in a way that isn’t glib and focused on appealing to the shallow selfishness of individual taxpayers.

3) Thoughtful solutions for health care and higher education

 There are two sectors of our economy that are complete disasters right now: health care and higher education. We are crushing the small businesses (and religious denominations) in our economy with our employer-based health insurance system. As a pastor on a lower-middle class salary, I am paying more than $10,000 a year for a plan that has a $6000 deductible because Louisiana Blue Cross Blue Shield can get away with it. Is it Obamacare’s fault? I don’t know but it sure didn’t make things better for me.

I don’t think that health care can work with a purely market-based approach because preventative medicine is the most effective way to do health care and people without insurance will wait until they’re bad enough for the emergency room and accrue debt they’ll never be able to repay. Until our doctors develop enough callous to let people without insurance die in emergency room waiting areas, health care will not follow the normal laws of the free market. I personally think we need universal single-payer health care so that our small businesses can be set free from the suffocating straightjacket of employee benefits.

The problems in higher education seem similar to health care in that they both fall outside of the normal supply/demand process in capitalism. Students do not behave like default consumers in a free market because going to college is not something you will opt out of if you can’t afford it. When higher education is shaped by natural market pressures, it becomes an anti-academic dystopia where colleges have more assistant provosts than tenured professors. Humanities disciplines are cut because they aren’t subsidized by industry and aren’t “practical” for utilitarian career-minded students. I wonder if there will be a single religious studies program left in our country in 50 years. Tulane got rid of its program after Katrina. The biggest problem is that so many students are taking on crippling debt to go to college and this debt will continue to stagnate our economy.

I realize it’s probably overly simplistic to say the federal government should just pay for health care and higher education. That’s of course my default preference. I wouldn’t mind paying more taxes for a benefit that would help my family immensely. I just think we should invest collectively in having a healthy, educated populace. Not investing in these things collectively seems like it creates an ocean of debt that stagnates our economy. I know that Kasich isn’t going to agree completely with what I’d like to see. I just want to hear whether his solutions sound like those of an open-minded pragmatist or a slavish free market ideologue.

4) Practical, un-theatrical foreign policy

Nothing has been a stupider waste of money than American foreign policy over the past several decades. At best, it’s codependency on a global scale; at worst, it’s brutal imperialism. It is neither practical nor moral for the US to intervene and fix every foreign crisis that our sensationalist media decides to fixate upon. What’s criminal is the way that we drop bombs that kill civilians in order to prove that Democrats aren’t “soft” on terrorism. Obama’s drone program is just as evil as Bush’s war on fake weapons of mass destruction. But one of the things I most admire about Obama is his willingness to prod Middle Eastern countries to address their own regional problems instead of doing their work for them as a global cop/sugar daddy despite the intense flak he’s received from the dimwits who call this “leading from behind.”

We have spent trillions of dollars on interventionism in the Middle East and the region is worse now than it was three decades ago. I’m not saying that Kasich has to be as pacifist or isolationist as I would prefer. I just want to see a foreign policy that is 100% practical and 0% posturing. If he throws around that inane term “American exceptionalism” as a saber-rattling stunt, then he’s finished for me. What makes America exceptional are the activists and agitators who force it to be a democracy, not the guns and bombs that make a certain type of American feel macho.

5) Accountability for Israel and full civil rights for Palestinians

The foreign policy problem that drives our trillions of wasted dollars in Middle East interventionism is our unhealthy codependent relationship with Israel. When you give a foreign country $3 billion a year, there has to be accountability. We do not give Hamas $3 billion a year. Thus we cannot hold Hamas accountable. When Israel violates international law with impunity by continuing to expand into Palestinian land, it feeds terrorist propaganda and recruitment which creates a global security problem for us. Palestinian suicide bombs, rockets, or knives do not change the fact that there is no valid security reason for Israel to keep kicking a hornets’ nest by building illegal settlements.

Israel’s enthusiastic pursuit of illegal settlements in the West Bank shows that it has decided upon a one-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. The best way to end the terrorism that has destroyed the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians is to give Palestinians in the occupied territories full civil rights as Israeli citizens. There is no other way forward because of the Israeli settlements that have made a two-state solution impossible. Hillary Clinton has shown that she has no intention of doing anything to change the status quo and expect any accountability from Israel for our billions of tax dollars.

Democrats have been complete cowards on this issue because Republicans are trying to use it to poach the mostly Democratic Jewish vote. So a moderate Republican president has an opportunity to hold Israel accountable in a way that a moderate Democratic president is unable. If Kasich actually showed real signs of standing up to Israel, I might be willing to vote for him on that basis alone because so much evil in our world flows from this one injustice that has been so shamefully held hostage by US partisan politics.

6) A just and realistic immigration system

 Here’s the problem with our immigration system. Our economy right now can support about 12 million temporary, blue-collar jobs that few people are willing to do because they’re dangerous and unstable and require sitting out in front of Lowe’s at five in the morning every day with no guarantee of getting picked by the contractors. We issue less than 100,000 H2A guest-worker visas for people to come and do these jobs. So the rest of the temporary labor pool is filled by undocumented immigrants. Furthermore, H2A visas do not reflect the economic reality of temporary labor because they are tied to a single US employer like a farmer or factory owner, which is ridiculous and creates the context for abusive relationships.

We need a true temporary worker visa system that reflects the freelance nature of temporary blue collar work so that workers can migrate here when there’s work and go back to their countries without penalty when there isn’t. If temporary workers could cross our border back and forth honestly, they wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars on a smuggler every time which would disincentivize moving their entire families to the US when they could live much more affordably in their home countries.

The irrational need to punish “illegals” is the main thing that interferes with honest, objective immigrant reform that is actually supported by the US Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO alike. Where a Democrat couldn’t get away with immigration reform, perhaps a moderate Republican could. John Kasich has an opportunity to change everything for his party with this issue. Of course, the reason other moderate Republicans have always failed at this is because nothing riles up their base more than those “illegals.” But this is Kasich’s opportunity to take a stand firmly against Trumpism and in favor of a rational immigration system.

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