That name was chanted last Tuesday night in the Ohio governor’s home state. It’s a name that could stand to be heard more often in the present election-year cacophony. But his home victory was quickly drowned out in the news cycle by the attention being paid to the other, shall we say, showier candidates.
As much as it pains me to reward these latter with yet more attention, I have to name them here to make a point. Much is being made of the still-split opposition to Trump in the fractured Republican party. And in the interminable delegate calculus, Kasich is the worst off on either side of the aisle. But this may be exactly what needs to change if the frenzied tenor of our political climate is to change. To put it even in the reactionary terms of the day, if you’re looking for an anti-Trump candidate, it isn’t Ted Cruz, who is selling the same act but with less success. Nor for that matter is it Hillary Clinton, who exudes a similarly self-idolizing ambitiousness, or Bernie Sanders, who discounts his own senate experience to market himself as the “outsider” darling of the left.
John Kasich, by contrast, stands out from the others precisely because he is so ordinary – which unfortunately is the same reason that he, like other relatively normal-sounding candidates who have since dropped out, continues to be systematically ignored (a problem I wrote about in more general terms here). Of these, I knew the least about Kasich until becoming intrigued by some coverage by Scott McConnell at The American Conservative (one of the last places in America where that word has real meaning beyond its now-popular use as shorthand for far-right liberalism). The more I’ve heard and the more the field has narrowed, the more I find myself increasingly hoping that the prospect of a merit-based emergence for Kasich is not mere wishful thinking on McConnell’s part (even as his AmCon colleague Daniel McCarthy all but ignores the fact that Kasich is still in the race, only giving him a passing reference to suggest he is unlikely to steal delegates from the two more sensationalist Republicans).
Some time earlier this year, it dawned on me what those candidates I could willingly consider voting for had in common, besides sounding the most adult: they were all governors. The more I thought about it, the less coincidental it seemed that the more adult voices were of those with demonstrable experience, and hence presumable interest, in actually governing. In that light, Kasich’s strong endorsement from the people he governs is not insignificant: he had to earn it, not merely by exciting crowds at rallies, but by actually doing his job.
Perhaps in a relatively saner season, a likeable governor from the swingiest of swing states who explicitly makes a point of running a clean campaign would be faring much better. Or perhaps I’m being naïve. After all, it’s nothing new that sensationalism sells. And I certainly consider myself naïve in retrospect for having bought into the empty promises of unification brought by the current and previous presidencies. So, lest I sound even remotely messianic having found a candidate I can support, it bears reminding as always that no candidate is ever the hope of the nation, still less of the world. I will say, however, that John Kasich is the only remaining candidate who I actually think would make a good president. Let that stand for now as my unofficial vote, having been frustrated to learn that I can’t vote in the primary as a registered independent in my current state of residence. Without wanting to be quite so presumptuous as to order anyone else how to vote, if I can at least deflect a little bit of attention onto someone in the electoral madhouse being ignored for his sanity, I may feel a little bit vindicated.