Following the death in 2011 of David Broder, the dean of Washington political reporters who wrote for the Washington Post for 40 years, Dan Balz, another WaPo reporter who others used as a political divining rod, moved to the head of the class of Beltway pundits. This reporter crossed paths with Balz on several occasion in 2012, when both of us were crisscrossing Ohio as the presidential election cycle between President Obama and his GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, ground on in Ohio, a tipping-point state no Republican can lose and still expect to be elected president.
Writing a conventional wisdom look at Ohio Gov. John Kasich in Tuesday’s WaPo, Balz did an excellent job of repeating the narrative John Kasich and his communication team have constructed for him, that others have glommed onto to illustrate Kasich’s quirky but curious relationship with his own party. On any normal day, Kasich lines up squarely behind patented but poor performing theories on economic development and social engineering that appear to produce more economic inequality and more social divisions than Gov. Kasich or, for that matter, Mr. Balz, cares to declare.
Balz rolled out a series of quotes from Ohio political watchers that basically boiled down to this simple but false conclusion: Kasich has been from his early days as a state senator, through his 18 years in Congress and now as the razzle dazzle governor if a key Midwestern state, a Republican in every way Republicans can be measured. But even though he follows the GOP playbook de jour, he’s gotten disproportionate mileage from diverting on few occasions from the hard-right ideological compass heading that’s been the hallmark of fiscal and social conservatives like him for nearly as long as the GOP has become inseparable from the modern Republican Party. Balz would have to agree, based on lots of respected polling, that even though Republicans are on a jag about how low President Obama’s approval rating is now, what’s even worse is the status in the minds of Americans about the GOP, and Congress, which has been flummoxed ever since Obama became president and Kasich’s allies, like his golfing buddy John Boehner, an Ohio Congressman and speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, set out to trip up the White House at every turn, hoping to pin the poor performance caused by their obstructionism back on Obama.
In his review of Kasich’s first-term as governor, and in his speculation on Kasich as a second-tier GOP presidential hopeful, Balz appears to have not asked Gov. Kasich many, if any, questions on whether he’s for or against a long list of topics and issues that should play a part in voters’ minds with respect to who they hand the U.S. Senate to this fall and whether Kasich is anointed for a second and final four-year term.
Name an issue—raising the minimum wage, expanding and protecting voter rights, more access for women to their constitutional health rights, collective bargaining, right to work, growing inequality, boosting or contracting social security, Medicare or Medicaid—Balz could have pinned down a professional performance politico like Kasich, and he didn’t. Like others who are captured by Kasich’s home-town shtick, that portrays him as just another regular guy doing the Lord’s work, Balz is clearly captivated by Kasich’s well-honed narrative that he’s unafraid to push his party and that everyone but him is a political animal. Of course, for long-time Kasich watchers who have seen him up close and personal for the extended arc of his lucrative career as an elected official out to reign in government, John Kasich is a political as them come.
According to Balz, what sets Kasich apart from some others in his party “is his willingness to use the levers of government and the zeal with which he has embraced his own version of compassionate conservatism, with strong religious overtones.” For some, those strong religious overtones translate to his theocratic undergirding. Kasich has been allowed to make cryptic allusions to Biblical beings and their teachings, while never being challenged directly on them.
In classic but basic Kasich, he’s always the center of the universe. “My party is me,” he told Balz, who snagged an interview with him at the Ohio Governor’s Residence, which he doesn’t live in with his family but uses for special events like interviews with elite Beltway pundits like Balz. “I have a right to shape my party. I have a right to have an opinion about what my party ought to be. Who’s defining for me what my party is? I’m trying to define what I think the party is.” Kasich must not have read the review the GOP did of itself following losing the White House in 2012 that essentially said it’s seen as out of touch, old, white, rich and very male driven. What did the GOP do about that? Actually, nothing. As demographics change to younger, minority voters and women, most of what the GOP stands for and John Kasich endorses has changed little from its cast-in-concrete principles of small government, lower taxes and less regulation.
The dots that Balz didn’t not connect but should have, were connected for him and his readers through comments that identified John Kasich as mostly a charlatan whose benefited from policies others have put in place that he would not have voted for, but is ready to claim credit for once they pan out. Balz failed to mention that Kasich, like all other Republicans at the time, voted against Bill Clinton’s first budget that include a small hike in taxes. Kasich voted against it, but it passed anyhow and led to a 1990s boom that Kasich eagerly accepted, when he next claimed to have balanced the budget following the Newt Gingrich take over of the House and Kasich’s ascendancy to House Budget Committee chairman.
It’s not known whether Balz read any of the more pertinent comments, so to help him out and others, here’s a small roundup of readers who have not been captured and neutralized by the Kasich karizma.
“Sorry, but for this unaffiliated voter, there is no room on my wish list for yet another Republican with “his own version of compassionate conservatism, with strong religious overtones” who is beholden to the evil Koch brothers and works to break unions and organized labor. I don’t care how swell his personality is. George W. Bush allegedly has a swell personality, too. And what a mess he made of things.”
“This may sound myopic but, he’S A REPUBLICAN. I’ve never knew one to be for the people, only their own vested interests. Christianist move within the republican party for one specific reason, to get their nonsensense passed over the rights of the average citizen; for that they are willing to trade tax dollars to the wealthy and corporate backers, a trade Kasich, like his colleagues in other states have been forcing whenever they get into power. If he would fight for the expansion of voting rights to those who would vote Democratic, then I might have a different opinion, otherwise, he is a bona fide right winger.”
“A religious conservative? To me that means every wacky idea they get they think it’s God sending them a message.”
“It’s all a scam .. he took money from local governments and schools to balance his budget, he’s taking money from public schools to support his friends running charter/for-profit schools,
he attempted to crush our teachers and only stopped when he knew he’d lose the fight, he increased fracking in the state to claim new jobs and new business development, he has ignored a greening Lake Erie and polluted streams, he took money from the state to fund his private business party slush fund – JobsOhio, he took state money to live and reinforce his own private home/fortress instead of the Governor’s mansion, he never once gave the state of the state speech in the Capital building; he instead choose to take his speech away from critics to Republican friendly towns, etc., etc., the only reason Ohio is on the rebound is that the rest of the country is .. Kasich had nothing to do with any made-up comeback.”
“This long article and not even a mention of his support of killing Green initiatives so he could please his donors even if it means letting the environment go to hell. What a sad state journalism is in.”
“Even a heart transplant couldn’t change the meanness and greed of Dick Cheney, the former GOP poster boy. Kasich and his ilk are merely advocating for lipstick on the pig.”
“I’m not sure he had any choice but to retreat and moderate his tone when he was given such a huge defeat. All that proves is he’s not suicidal.”
“Kasich may well have won anyways, but it’s hard not to wonder how much we’d be talking about him in this WP article’s terms if his Dem opponent wasn’t so ridiculously pathetic.”
“Kasich has always TRIED to sound reasonable, but if he really was, he’d be a Democrat. Twenty-five years ago he was the wunderkind chairman of the House Budget Committee. He had all the answers. Today, we have a new Midwestern Republican wunderkind as chairman of the House Budget Committee. He also has all the answers. When will voters ever learn.”
“I was all in favor of Kasich until the paragraph discussing his work with Lehman Brs. We can now see right through his politico demagogue tactics that are driving his desires. We know why the Tea Party is discouraged with him. Supporting a nationalized healthcare system and raising the state debt are two of the most dangerous ideas that can come out of a proclaimed conservative! He may be closer to Teddy Roosevelt than any true conservative today and we know Teddy had a few conservative ideas but at the heart of his rational, Teddy was a Democrat.”
“It also seems that Kasich is trying to demagogue his way to the top. This could prove bad for the Republican Party in 2016 as undecided conservatives swing to Hillary due to popularity as opposed to platform.”
“Redefine” the Republican Party? To what end? To more effectively deceive the voter?”
“It is not the definition but the nature that needs to change.”