You remember the cartoon cliché of the big guy nonchalantly stiff-arming the forehead of the little guy who swings his arms wildly at the big guy and catches only wind?
That’s the analogy I’d like to employ for the dust-up between Donald Trump and John Kasich when Trump held his first campaign rally at the Greater Columbus Convention Center Monday.
Now imagine the little guy has a team of sycophants in Ohio and throughout the media who respond to this little display by writing headlines like “John Kasich gets the better of Donald Trump in Buckeye State battle,” as Cleveland.com was kind enough to amuse me with this morning.
Let’s get the Trump stuff out of the way first: The man is an ignorant, arrogant lying demagogue with authoritarian impulses and a crude, callous, dangerous worldview. He is, in short, a boob, but a dangerous boob because he is able to validate and bring out the worst impulses in others. And the national zeitgeist at the moment is a powder keg where bad impulses can spark maddening destruction.
What’s astounding, though, is the fact that most of his primary opponents aren’t a whole lot better, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Kasich likes to think he’s playing “the adult in the room,” but his policy prescriptions would be as damaging to this country as every other Republican candidate’s. If you’re familiar with my work at this lovely progressive watering hole of ours, I don’t need to roll the tale of the tape on Kasich. If you’re an Ohio resident, you know all too well.
In 2008 and 2012, the Republican Party presidential nomination candidates had some real silly, stupid flamethrowers, but in the end, the party hedged toward “reasonable” or “moderate” or “has a chance in hell of winning a general” with John McCain and Willard M. Romney.
What makes me shudder is that John Kasich, Marco Rubio and that great governmental firebomber Ted Cruz himself now count as hedging toward “reasonable” or “moderate.”
Trump’s already tipped his hand that if he loses the primary he will say the Republican National Committee broke the deal they made, and he’ll run third party, which would throw the general to the Dems. Or Trump continues to lead, and they actually nominate him, and they get Goldwatered.
Either way “Team Kasich” strutting around like they scored some real points against Trump this week is both laughable and vaguely pathetic.
“Kasich and his allies threw everything they had at the billionaire,” Cleveland.com’s Henry Gomez fawns over their effort. “They succeeded in not allowing Trump to show Kasich up on his home turf.”
Ignore that Trump’s first rally in Ohio beat out Kasich’s Presidential Campaign kick-off by a ratio of 5-1 in attendance. Ignore that Ohio GOP Chair Matt Borges has been crowing that he told Trump to steer clear of attacking Kasich and Trump insulted Kasich anyway. Ignore that the 10,000 people at Trump’s rally heartily cheered his xenophobia, his recklessness, his bullying, and his worst impulses in a way Kasich has never heard a crowd cheer him in a four-decade political career, and sure, like Gomez, you could write “Team Kasich outwitted Trump.”
But to believe that you would have to believe that these past seven years Republicans frothing at the mouth over the Obama administration’s every move was just some sort of show, a goof, a put-on, where they really do want reasonable answers from reasonable people and responsible leadership from a considered and thoughtful leader.
They don’t. They don’t want the “adult in the room.” They don’t want reason, and thoughtfulness, and nuance, and considered judgment. They want someone to wrap their worst fears and darkest impulses in a blanket and make them feel warm and cozy in their hatreds and paranoias and racism. They could not give less of a hot, wet shit about good governance, diplomacy, history, science, scholarship, ethics or reason.
No soup and a salad over here, they want the junk food, greasy, fatty, salty and sweet. It’s right there in the polls. Nationally, Kasich’s “adult in the room” schtick has played as well as the armless man covering third base. In July, Jeb! was leading Trump 15.5 percent to 15 percent when Kasich announced, and Kasich was scraping 2 percent.
Since then, Jeb! has fallen into the wastelands, Kasich scrapped his way up to 3.8 percent, then fell off, then scrapped his way back up to 3.4 percent, and Trump has surged upward to over 30 percent, fallen slightly, then surged a couple more times to 27 percent where he stands now. Trump has taken two-day falls in the polls that represent Kasich’s entire base of support, and gained it back five-fold in the two days that followed.
The Republican base doesn’t want the “adult in the room” and flexing Matt Borges at Trump to get him to insult you “only a little bit” is no great victory.
The Republican base—the frothing, teeming Republican base after seven years of that Islamic, socialist dictator Obama—wants the demagogue that really represents them. And no amount of huffing, puffing chagrin from Team Kasich and the rest of the Republican Establishment is going to change that.
Dr. Frankenstein, meet your monster. Donald Trump may not be the candidate the Republican Party needs, but he’s damn sure the candidate the Republican Party deserves.
D.C. DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He is the Associate Editor of The Athens NEWS in Athens, Ohio. DeWitt can be found on Facebook and Twitter @DC_DeWitt.