Ohio Gov. John Kasich

Ohio Gov. John Kasich

On one hand, Ohio Gov. John Kasich probably knows and sincerely believes that a Donald Trump presidency would be an unprecedented disaster for the United States. He’s said as much, often enough. On the other hand, Kasich’s unslaked thirst for the highest office of power compels him to hope the Trump candidacy is as much a disaster for the Republican Party as he’s been claiming it will be.

He pines for this, of course, because he wants to be the Grand Old Party’s savior, eyeing his chance to challenge the inevitably vulnerable incumbency of Hillary Clinton in 2020. As much as I would hope that Kasich is right, and that the Trump nomination is a disaster for the Republican Party, I’m dubious.

Trump is unlikely to win Nov. 8. His path to victory is not impossible, but highly improbable. Nevertheless, I don’t think the Republican Party will pay very seriously for nominating the most ill-temperate, ignorant and unqualified candidate for president in American history. That would require an “a-ha” moment and a sense of shame heretofore undemonstrated by the Republican Party in my lifetime.

No, even if 2016 is as bad as it can get for the Republican Party, they will likely enjoy a 2018 rebound after two years of HRC in office, riding the low turnout of mid-terms (as they have been; see: 2010, 2014) and the likely unpopularity of the incumbent president (after spending two years hammering and obstructing her mercilessly, as the playbook demands; see: the tenure of President Barack Obama).

Where Democrats will have more trouble, sadly, is 2020. Hillary Clinton will not miraculously become less divisive, more popular, or have lower negatives over the course of her incumbency. She is not the once-in-a-lifetime political talent that Obama is (and he started off on much higher ground than she will). The Clintons will continue to be controversial, to say the least, and criticism will only continue to mount.

I expect her to be a relatively effective incumbent who will move the ball forward (though probably more slowly and incrementally than us progressives would wish), but she will not win any new hearts or minds. Almost anyone the Republicans throw at her in 2020 – with the exception perhaps of re-running Donald Trump – should be able to beat her. So of course John Kasich wants that chance.

Kasich’s central pitch has been as a kum-bay-yah uniter willing to reach across the aisle to get things done (I know it’s laughable, Ohioans, but it’s what he’s selling). He’s hoping that the Trump nomination and the Clinton presidency will somehow wake people up to the terrible consequences of unbridled political hatred running rampant through America.

From Politico:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s war with the national Republican Party exploded into the open Sunday night, when his top adviser thrashed GOP leader Reince Priebus and hinted that the presidential election may be out of reach for Donald Trump.

The statement, issued on official campaign letterhead, followed remarks by Priebus earlier Sunday suggesting the party might block the Ohio governor from running for president again because he has refused to support Trump.

“Thankfully, there are still leaders in this country who put principles before politics,” said John Weaver, Kasich’s adviser, adding, “The idea of a greater purpose beyond oneself may be alien to political party bosses like Reince Priebus, but it is at the center of everything Governor Kasich does.” …

Throughout the race and especially since dropping out, Kasich has presented his sunnier brand of politics and ties to the GOP establishment as an alternative to Trumpism. And in the process, he’s infuriated party officials and Trump backers for continuing to needle their nominee.

At the Republican National Convention in July — in Kasich’s backyard in Cleveland — Kasich refused to attend but held a string of events on the margins to push his own version of Republicanism.

Happily for Kasich, as demonstrated throughout 2016, Priebus is about as politically impotent as the chairman of a major national party can get.

To my mind, Kasich’s real problem is that Trumpism will not end with the defeat of Trump. There will be so-called “soul searching” within the Republican Party, but it will not be found in diametric opposition to the Trumpean Ethos, but rather in a slightly moderated, repackaged iteration of it.

Kasich needs Trump’s campaign to be a catastrophe to better sell his message that the party needs to move in the opposite direction. I find it more likely that Trump’s failure will be seen as (somber political pundit voice), “a surprisingly close challenge to a political veteran who should’ve wiped the floor with him.”

The “messenger was deeply flawed,” they will say, but the “message resonated.” More than one political wizard will write about what Trump “tapped into” within the American people to rise as he did despite his numerous “gaffes.” There will be furrow-browed conjecture, for a time, and we will hear about the Republican Party “looking inward” and doing an “honest reassessment.”

But soon enough, the monkey house that is the GOP’s contribution to national discourse will be in full swing again, and with Hillary Clinton in office, the feces will be flying full-force. The unfounded accusations and contempt will grow only more feverish, the ravings more wild-eyed, the screeching for her incarceration ever-more shrill. And they will keep it up all four years of her presidency.

By 2020, the GOP will not be looking for Kasich’s sunnier brand of politics, but rather a warrior hero who challenged the “criminal incumbency” of Hillary Clinton at every turn, but this time someone with the “experience to know how to beat her.” There will be no shortage of great apes in the GOP field willing to throw that dung, even if Kasich still isn’t.

D.C. DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure. He has also written for Government Executive’s RouteFifty.com, 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.