By Frank J Biga III -
As a guest at the Republican National Convention I got to see quite a lot this week, including how sausage is made. But the most interesting spectacle thus far was Governor John Kasich’s performance at Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse in downtown Cleveland.
This occurred on Monday evening before the major speeches of the night. Kasich came in to the restaurant to meet some of his supporters and delegates that he won in Illinois and proceeded to show just why he never engendered the passion necessary to win the nomination and be given the chance to lead our party and nation during these troubling times.
Kasich continued to refuse to come and make an appearance at the convention itself and never gave any indication that he would endorse or even vote for Donald Trump this coming November. He gave remarks that were an off-handed swipe at Trump’s positions on immigration and border control by saying that “Really an inclusive reform agenda for the Republican Party is where my head is.” Kasich also showed what his idea of a good Republican is by stating that he intended to come out to Illinois to help fundraise for Senator Mark Kirk. Kasich refused to say he would support Trump and remains opposed to much of what is included in the 2016 platform.
Now maybe Kasich was focusing more on the politics of re-election in Ohio in 2018. He did attend the NAACP convention in Cincinnati before arriving in Cleveland for his brief remarks.
But maybe, instead, he’s looking down the road to 2020 and hoping for a Trump loss this year?
Playing such a game though is very dangerous politically. And it has ruined great political careers. Consider Senator Roscoe P. Conkling of New York.
Conkling was the ultimate machine politician of the post-Civil War era – even more than Democrat “Boss” Tweed of Tammany Hall in NY City. Conkling ran NY State and was the ultimate power broker controlling in many respects who won the Presidency during this time. He was an early backer of Ulysses S Grant and 1868 and even tried to get Grant nominated to come back and run for a third term in 1880 at the GOP convention in Chicago. He settled though for having his lieutenant Chester A. Arthur get the VP nod and then continued to put up roadblocks to civil service reform.
Conkling could be reckless. Mocked by James Blaine in a battle in an early debate in the House as a man with a “turkey gobbler strut”, he clearly betrayed a certain arrogance that rubbed others the wrong way. He also took risks including having a torrid affair with Kate Chase Sprague, the daughter of the Supreme Court Justice and wife of a fellow Senator. Conkling ran New York State with an iron fist. He controlled patronage and was invaluable on the speaking circuit.
When Arthur assumed the Presidency after Garfield had been assassinated by Charles Guiteau, civil service reform became one of the top issues of the day and the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act passed despite opposition by Conkling and his Stalwart allies. One could say that Conkling was acting on principles too – like Kasich and now Senator Cruz would say as to why they refuse to get on the Trump bandwagon.
But Conkling was not chastened by his loss on civil service reform. His power was waning but still effective. Unable to prevent his arch-enemy James G. Blaine from getting the GOP nomination for President in 1884, Conkling did not wish to see him win the Presidency either. In fact, when other members of the party tried to woo him to support the nominee, Conkling is reported to have said “ Gentlemen, you have been misinformed, I have given up criminal law!”
Conkling was not active in his opposition to Blaine, but he did not get his machine to turn out the vote for him either. And this machine could have won him NY, as it did for the Republican nominee every other year since 1868, despite the presence of NY Governor Grover Cleveland on the Democratic ticket. Blaine lost NY by a small margin, and with it the Presidency since the Democratic party could always count on a Solid South back then and electoral college counts were always pretty close. National elections came down to NY then.
Which brings us back to Governor Kasich and Ohio. Kasich is well-regarded in the state, has won numerous Congressional campaigns and two statewide races for Governor and then the GOP presidential primary. He has heft and could make a difference in whether Ohio goes Republican. And no Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. So Kasich appears to be the ultimate powerbroker here.
He also comes across as an obstinate child too. Reportedly he refused the Vice Presidency and has shown zero magnanimity in the manner of Speaker Paul Ryan or Senator Marco Rubio. He looked tired, worn, and haggard at the event too – a man who is past his prime and whose best chance at the White House has escaped him. Maybe it was just the weather.
But, if he does still aspire to better things for his party and his own personal ambition, his decision here and his behavior as well run the risk of serious miscalculation. As Ohio is not what it used to be. It only has 18 electoral votes now. And if Mr. Trump can break the Blue Wall and win Pennsylvania and Michigan he can still win the Electoral College if he wins all the Romney states of 2012 plus Florida. And Ohio is NOT needed in such a calculus. He wouldn’t need Virginia, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, or Iowa in such a scenario getting to 271.
So, Ohio, although important and it certainly would make winning easier, it is not indispensable. And so, neither is Kasich.
John Kasich should get over his personal pique at Donald Trump. He has, of all the later GOP rivals to Trump, the least reason to act in this way. There was no demeaning moniker attached to him like Low Energy Jeb or Little Marco. Trump mostly ignored Kasich. No, I think Kasich is just a sore loser who is using these policy differences as an excuse to stab his rival in the back and end his hopes to win.
But, if Trump loses, and it is close, there is no way that Kasich (or Cruz for that matter) will be forgiven for these transgressions against party unity. If Hillary gets in, the Supreme Court is gone for decades. And so goes the Court, so goes the lives of the unborn, our second Amendment rights, immigration enforcement, campaign finance, voter fraud, and the list goes on. In short, our country is at stake. This is no time for a temper tantrum in the mold of Roscoe P. Conkling.
And Conkling, by the way, got his due. He resigned from office in order to run again so as to change the makeup of the NY legislature (who chose US Senators back then). He figured his personal magnetism and abilities would sway the electorate.
It didn’t. He lost.
And one might think it was because his antics in 1884 cost his party the Presidency. Governor Kasich should take heed, re-evaluate his position, and support his party’s nominee – Donald J Trump.
Kasich won one state. What is his problem? He would never have been the nominee.
It’s already been decided who the next President of the
United States is going to be, but hey, it’s great THEATER!
Don’t you know, he almost win Vermont! Vermont! Where else could you go that’s more representative of the Republican Party? Lol