If cinema fans found out nearly twenty years ago that there was something about Mary, then political fans are learning right now that there’s also something about John Kasich. Among a plethora of items on the topic of all things Kasich, a big something to know about King John is his use of language, be it misleading, incendiary, or metaphorical.
On the morning after his distant second-place finish behind Donald Trump in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, the part-time Ohio governor and sometime Granite State resident couldn’t avoid dropping yet another oblique reference to his shimmering persona and electoral success. “Light can overcome the darkness in a political campaign,” he exclaimed hours after the polls closed in a Today Show interview.
Right. He’s all about light. Sure.
Kasich also does speak frequently about the absence of light. Not everyone is like him, to be sure, out in the sunshine, in the spotlight, talking about light. No, he tells us, there’s another condition, or maybe two.
He pivots and mulls about darkness. And shadows. “[W]e have to reach out to people who live in the shadows,” he tells interviewers. “I don’t know that everybody gets it.”
Well maybe we don’t. So then let’s journey beyond the Kasich rhetoric to discover the authentic world of Kasich reality.
If the governor feels that light can overcome darkness, that some people live in the shadows, why is it that he who controls the levers of government does such a great job promoting and creating darkness in state government and keeping some aspects of government in the shadows?
The two best examples of Kasich’s rhetoric about light overcoming darkness are the sad reality of JobsOhio and his track record of encouraging the growth of privately operated “public” charter schools. With the former, (Wrecking) Crew Kasich took what was a transparent state agency and hid it behind an opaque wall of dark glass formed by the profits from and the accretion of discarded whiskey and wine bottles, impenetrable by light. “As a private, nonprofit entity, we are very accountable for our actions,” said a JobsOhio spokeswoman a few years back, but she nevertheless declined to discuss the specific salaries of top management.
Got it. Private. Nonprofit. Transparent. But accountable due to funds from state liquor profits. Sure.
And then there’s the sorry situation with the state’s charter schools, where these publicly funded and privately operated entities receive generous public tax dollars diverted from public school districts but nevertheless operate in the shadows. The operators, lobbyists, and apologists for charterdom are constantly campaigning for increased state funding while they resist attempts for increased transparency and accountability. And if those liquor and wine bottles provide opaqueness and cover for JobsOhio, can it be that light also may never fully penetrate the charter industry – an enterprise which touts its for-profit and private nature while its out-of-state management companies operate in the shadows, free from full public scrutiny?
If John Kasich likes to create campaign metaphors and images through the use of contrasting words like light, darkness, and shadows, the public needs to weigh the governor’s national campaign rhetoric with Ohio state government reality and call him on his basic hypocrisy.
Or maybe it’s not hypocrisy.
Maybe it’s something else that’s not about Mary but very much about Kasich. Could it be something like projection? Yes, projection, the psychological theory where someone might talk about undesirable situations or traits in others which may in fact be the same factors or traits in one’s own personality. When you continuously comment on light, darkness, and shadows, maybe there’s a need to examine why someone who talks about light, darkness, and shadows all the time in fact supports public policy that is the antithesis of what he’s saying.
By definition, private non-profit agencies (JobsOhio) that are created for the purpose of operating outside the bounds of regulations that would otherwise make them transparent do not meet the test of being models of light and public scrutiny. In the same vein, privately operated for-profit charter schools operate in the shadows, as their companies do not normally disclose salary or what we used to think of as “public” information. As an example, several years ago, when I worked in the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school office, I called a charter school to request certain information that was thought to be important in addressing a complaint our public agency had received. “That information is proprietary” was the curt answer I was given. How Prussian a response, I thought at the time.
So the more we think about the term privatization, it really is the polar opposite of public, viz., operating in the open – or in the light and not the shadows or darkness. But that can’t be right – or is Kasich in a projection state or delving in crass hypocrisy when he forms those descriptors? Light. Shadows. Darkness. What, pray tell, is this something about Mary, er Kasich? Projection? Hypocrisy? What?
And then there’s proprietary information kept by a “public” school. All this is confusing in an election year, isn’t it?
“You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose,” Mario Cuomo reminded us several decades ago. Whatever you make of John Kasich’s use of the words light, shadows, and darkness, it’s certainly not poetry. And in analyzing any other preexisting conditions about the governor, I’ll leave it to the prose – er, the professionals – to provide the proper diagnosis. And so it goes.
Denis Smith is a retired school administrator and a former consultant in the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school office.