Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich put his principles where his mouth is, and in so doing established his standing as the conscience of the national Republican Party.
And the governor of one of the most important states for the GOP’s presidential fortunes in Tuesday’s election turned the spotlight on those national Republican officeholders who have sold their souls for political expediency.
On Monday, Kasich cast his general election vote by absentee ballot, and according to Cleveland Plain Dealer political writer Henry Gomez stayed true to his word in the race for president. He voted for U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona – by writing in the 2008 GOP presidential nominee’s name.
Thus, he memorialized his verbal repudiation of this year’s GOP nominee, Donald Trump, the brash, profane, egocentric New York City billionaire.
Kasich’s refusal to endorse Trump, who secured the GOP nomination by defeating 16 other candidates, including Ohio’s governor, has grabbed national headlines. The snub has become the subtext of the GOP presidential campaign.
But it wasn’t just Kasich’s refusal to vote for Trump that is of significance. He has been highly critical of the nominee’s divisive language and has disagreed with him on several important issues, such as trade.
Kasich’s embrace of McCain, who lost the 2008 election to Democrat Barack Obama, is noteworthy because of what Trump has said about the decorated Vietnam War veteran.
“He’s not a war hero,” the billionaire who never served in the military said of McCain. He then offered this snarky observation: “He’s a war hero because he was captured.” And then Trump tossed out the following comment that triggered an avalanche of criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike: “I like people who weren’t captured.”
Arms, legs fractured
McCain was a Naval aviator when he was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967. He fractured both arms and legs after being ejected from his jet fighter. During his five or so years in the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” he was repeatedly tortured. Yet, McCain refused early release when the North Vietnamese found out that his father was a Navy admiral, according to published reports.
McCain finally returned home in 1973 after the Paris Peace Accords were signed. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Silver Star and a Purple Heart for his service.
Kasich, who has called the Arizona senator his friend, was deeply offended by Trump’s attack.
He vowed after the primary that he would not endorse Trump and would not attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The governor was in the city for the four-day political event, but steered clear of the convention hall. He left before Trump accepted the GOP nomination.
But Kasich’s rejection of Trump goes beyond character and party politics. The governor believes the nominee is wrong on three issues that have made him a hero in old industrial regions like the Mahoning Valley: trade, immigration and his proposed construction of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico that would be paid for by the Mexicans.
Those issues allow mainly white, male, blue-collar workers to blame others for their economic distress.
As the governor has argued ad nauseam, Ohio’s economy depends on global trade.
In 2015, the Ohio Development Services research office issued a report on the state’s exports with this significant bottom line: Ohio merchandise exports were valued at $50.7 billion. It was the eighth-largest exporting state, with Made in Ohio goods going to 215 countries and territories.
Here’s another statistic that gives credence to what the governor has been preaching: Last year, nine countries received more than $1 billion in Ohio exports.
Finally, there’s the reality of our relationship with Canada – which would be jeopardized if Trump goes through with his pledge to set aside all international trade agreements and demand better terms for the United States: Ohio’s exports to Canada totaled $20.1 billion, which represented 40 percent of that overall state figure. By contrast, U.S. exports to Canada were 19 percent of the national total.
That is why the governor has taken such a public stand against Trump’s position. His election would jeopardize the state’s economy – if he declared war on this nation’s trading partners.
Unlike other prominent Republicans who are hiding in the weeds because they don’t want to anger Trump supporters, Kasich is standing on principle in a very visible way.
In September, he went to the White House and joined Democratic President Barack Obama in urging the GOP-controlled Congress to ratify the politically explosive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
The meeting in the Oval Office was attended by the president, other government officials, and business leaders who support the proposed pact with 12 countries in the Pacific Rim. The deal excludes China.
During a press briefing after the session, Kasich offered this poignant observation, as reported by the Toledo Blade:
“For me, I’ve got two 16-year-old daughters, I worry about the future of this country. America can’t afford to lock the doors and lower the blinds, and ignore the rest of the world. We’re a force for good, and this TPP will help us not only on the economic side, but will allow us to continue to be a strong world leader for good.”
That position is in sharp contrast to the one taken by Trump and even by the Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton.
Kasich has also harshly criticized the GOP nominee’s pledge to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, saying it would be logistically impossible and inhumane, because families with children born in this country would be dislocated.
Finally, Kasich has dismissed as political bluster Trump’s contention that he would force the government of Mexico to pay for his proposed wall.
Gov. Kasich, who won re-election in 2012 by a landslide, deserves the appreciation of all Ohioans who are weary of politicians putting political expediency before principle.