Stop Ignoring the Sane

Stop Ignoring the Sane March 19, 2016



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.

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  • E

    While Kasich seems like a reasonable candidate, his misogyny regarding choice is unacceptable in 2016

    • Julia Smucker

      This old canard.

      Without wanting to get totally side-tracked here, if pro-life = misogyny, why are a greater percentage of women than men pro-life? Or why for that matter should respect for the life of a preborn child require hatred for his or her mother? And what does the year have to do with anything?

    • Julia Smucker

      To return to Kasich, his response here to a pro-choice question is indeed quite reasonable, and certainly is admirably measured whether you agree with him or not.

  • Roger

    I’m sorry but a good percentage of the public don’t want another politician to be president – they want a change. The “showier” candidate speaks his mind and will get things done. Said showier candidate represents the GOP’s best shot at stopping another disastrous Clinton presidency. And as practicing Catholics, isn’t that what we all should be aiming for?

    • Julia Smucker

      A good percentage of the public is getting increasingly apocalyptic about elections, yes. I’d say that’s a big part of how we’ve gotten to the state we’re in. That, and a difficulty distinguishing between speaking one’s mind and running a slick marketing campaign (although, for the record, I wasn’t referring to only one showy candidate).

      The more things change, the more things stay the same…

      • One thing that strikes me in this election is, if a certain showy candidate gets the Republican nomination, it will signal the end of the pro-life movement as a political force within the Republican party. Eight years from now, we will find ourselves choosing between a pro-choice Republican and a pro-choice Democrat.

        • Julia Smucker

          I watched part of SNL up to the weekend update, and as they said regarding said candidate’s recent convoluted series of walk-backs, “He must be pro-choice because he’s made all the choices.”

          Seriously, you may be right, and that may be an ironic blessing in disguise for the pro-life movement, since (as I said in a previous post) it’s been most politically profitable for the GOP to pay lip service to pro-life concerns while maintaining the status quo on abortion. Not that it really makes a difference to the unborn whether they are used as a political leveraging tool and then thrown under the bus, or simply shown open hostility from both major parties, but in the latter case at least we know what we’re dealing with.

          Getting back to Kasich, a big part of what appeals to me about him is that not only is he pro-life, but he can say so calmly and politely (as in the town hall video I put in a comment above, which hopefully also indicates the ability to make a more developed and reasoned case that people might actually listen to), and furthermore he appears relatively dovish and closer to a consistent life ethic than any of the other candidates, even if he’s still not as close as I’d like.

  • I say this as someone who has not voted for a regularly nominated Democratic or Republican nominee for the Presidency in many, many elections (in other words, I have no axe to grind for any candidate) – after America and the world had 8 years of George Bush the Younger, shouldn’t we restrict our remarks about ‘disastrous presidencies’ to presidencies which actually were disasters?

  • Abe Rosenzweig

    Oh yeah, well if he’s so sane, then how come he doesn’t have any eyebrows?

    • Julia Smucker

      Hey, you’re right … well that changes everything. 🙂

      This just gave me the giggles for some reason. In all seriousness, though, it’s been driving me crazy that amid all the election-year political satire, nobody is even bothering to poke any fun at Kasich. I keep thinking that’s partly because he’s too sane to be mockable, but also, annoyingly, because people are assuming he is of no consequence. And maybe at the point we’ve come to, those things aren’t too far apart, since it’s the relatively sane who have been dismissed as boring and inconsequential. That itself is a sign of a serious problem that goes much deeper than the candidates themselves.