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American Politics

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Personal account of James Miller, Managing Editor of The Interpreter, a publication on Russia, Ukraine, and Syria. A contributor at Reuters, The Daily Beast, RFE/RL, elsewhere.
Make America, Or At Least The GOP, Sane Again
6 years
Are There Any Patriots In America?

As an "unenrolled (read "independent") voter, tomorrow, Super Tuesday, I get to cast a vote using whichever ballot I would like. This year I will be voting in the Republican primary for a single, yet crucial reason.

It's time to make the GOP sane again.

Before the New Hampshire primary I was listening to Boston Public Radio when they interviewed Ohio Governor John Kasich. Kasich is neither radical nor angry. He speaks the truth, has extensive experience working with leaders on both sides of the isle to tackle our country's problems -- large and small, and is immensely personable. Even when I disagree with Kasich, I find him a reasonable and well-meaning individual who has proven through the years that he is willing to listen to and work with those who disagree with him in order to get things done.

I have heard Kasich speak before and am familiar with his positions, so hearing him on the radio did not surprise me. But it was refreshing. Kasich is neither divisive nor derisive, but is instead both cordial and honest. Still, what shocked me were the callers and emails that followed.

Boston Public Radio spoke to half a dozen callers and read off just as many emails -- from Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Every single call or email spoke highly of Governor Kasich, but what was truly unnerving was the fact that every single person used one of the following words to express why Kasich was different from his Republican colleagues: he was intelligent, reasonable, logical, and sane.

Sane? I have been on search committees for many open job positions. In our efforts to interview perspective employees, I have never heard the words "reasonable," "logical," or "sane" used as desired qualities in an applicant for any position. They go without saying, even when filling the positions of church music director or school principal. Yet in the selection of the person who, if elected, would hold the nuclear launch codes, potential voters were not struck by Kasich's proposed policies, his solutions to complicated problems, or his vision for America. They were simply relieved that, unlike most of those running from his party, this man was sane. If Kasich won an election, there would not be a sudden epidemic of people jumping from tall buildings or fleeing to Canada to escape the coming hell. Has this become the best we can hope for from the "Grand Old Party"?

John Kasich is still a Republican, one whose positions on many issues are very different from his Democratic colleagues. But a closer look at Kasich reveals that he most closely resembles the Republicans of the past -- conservative yet "reasonable" people who could work with their opponents to make government better. It is for this reason that The Boston Globe chose to endorse Governor Kasich before the New Hampshire primary:

Unlike some of his competitors, Kasich entered the 2016 race little-known outside his native Ohio, which he served as a congressman and then, after a decade-long break from politics, where he was elected governor in 2010 and reelected in 2014. He has a record of pragmatic Midwestern conservatism, and has demonstrated an aptitude for the horse-trading and coalition-building that's so lacking in today's Washington. (It's no small irony that one of Kasich's finest accomplishments as a congressman - joining the bipartisan deal to impose a 10-year ban on assault weapons - is one that he barely mentions now.)
As governor since 2011, Kasich has had a mixed record. He picked an unproductive fight with the state's labor unions, which ended in political humiliation for the governor, but backed body cameras on police. He snubbed the Obama administration's offer of $400 million for high-speed rail service between Cleveland and Cincinnati, but broke with virtually every other Republican by accepting the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. That decision, in particular, showed considerable independence: Scorched-earth opposition to Obamacare has been a litmus test for many conservatives. He's also departed from Republican orthodoxy by resisting calls to require photo identification to vote, a measure that disproportionately affects minority and low-income voters.

N.H. Endorsement: Republicans should vote for John Kasich in New Hampshire primary - The Boston Globe

New Hampshire Republicans can do their party a critical service on Feb. 9 by voting for an experienced political figure with a record of results, and thus dealing a blow to the divisive, demagogic candidates running on nativism and other political simplicities.

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Mar 01, 2016 07:03 (GMT)

The Republican party is a shadow of its former self, at least on the national stage. Dwight Eisenhower built the national highway system to system to improve national defense and stimulate economic prosperity. He also worked to desegregate the military. Richard Nixon signed an executive order to establish the Environmental Protection Agency in order to address the environmental crisis, and he also proposed major changes to the health care system in order to get more American citizens the insurance they need, even proposing an employer mandate to expand coverage. Even the vaunted Republican Ronald Reagan, who was much further to the right than his predecessors, was not afraid to raise taxes when the budget called for it, and his Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 looks downright progressive when compared to today's current debate. Are these politicians radically out of touch with what conservatism should be, or has the GOP become a party of cranks, xenophobes, and obstructionists?

Listen to Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush talk about immigration reform. These supposedly-conservative stalwarts sound absolutely nothing like today's Republican candidates.

The Republican party has been moving further to the right for decades, and with little to show for it in terms of the economic performance of the nation, nor the performance of states which are consistently governed by Republicans. What is more, they have done this over a thirty year period of time where, with the exception of the very successful and fairly moderate Bill Clinton, they have dominated the control of the White House.

But there has been a more disturbing trend at play for the last few election cycles -- reason, logic, and the truth itself are being squeezed out of party. In an attempt to differentiate themselves from moderate Democrats and in order to cater to the base emotions of fear and hate, too many Republican have moved so far to the right that they have had to abandon rationality in order to stake out their political positions, not on fertile ground but on vitriolic lava.

As a long-time watcher of Massachusetts State politics (#MaPoli ) and a former Democratic campaign manager, I have seen what happens when Republicans and Democrats work together to solve problems. In 2010 I was the campaign manager for Massachusetts State Senator Richard T. Moore. Senator Moore was perhaps the best regarded state legislator in the entire country, and was elected as the President of the National Conference of State Legislatures, an honor that can only be won by having a national reputation for bipartisanship. During the time in the Senate Moore was the linchpin of a policy to always strive to vote on all legislation unanimously. In this fairly liberal state, that meant that Moore was able to address the concerns of his Republican colleagues to keep government efficient, cost effective, competitive, and non-invasive. In nearly every category, because of the bipartisan cooperation in the state government, Massachusetts moved from a middling state to a leader in nearly every category, from health care to education, the income of its citizens and the outcome of their collective work, leading Slate Magazine to dub it the best state in the Union in 2012 when Massachusetts' Republican Governor Mitt Romney ran for President of these United States.  

I have also seen how the fear mongering of right-wing political propaganda have pushed this kind of bipartisan progress right out of the mainstream. In 2010, the year of the Tea Party, Senator Moore won with the support of Republicans, Democrats, and independents. In 2014 he lost handily to a more radical and dishonest Republican, despite the fact that Moore's achievements had won him even more recognition from his colleagues on both sides of the isle. As someone who has worked on campaigns in central Massachusetts for a decade and a half, it is no surprise to me that those who feel abandoned by the two parties are likely to flock toward the anti-candidate, Donald Trump.

The hate, lies and vitriol of the Trump campaign would take a book to describe in detail, though John Oliver has done a fantastic job of summarizing the key problems in Trump's brand: racism, deceit, and a surprising resume of failure. But what has been disappointing to me is that so many of his GOP colleagues followed him right into the muck. This shows they not only is Donald Trump not worthy of leading this country, but neither are those who have bargained with the devil, making their own campaigns a little racist, a little hyperbolic, a little divisive in order to maybe, hopefully convince some of Trump's supporters to join their fold.

But what's described below, just the tip of the iceberg, has no place in American politics -- not even a little.

On Tuesday, March 1, I will be casting my vote for John Kasich. I am under no illusion that he could win. It is not my job, as a voter, to play the ballot like a chess piece. Instead it is my duty to take a long, hard look at the candidates and choose who best reflects the values of America and who would best lead the country into the promise of the future, not the darkness of the past. Republicans and independents should join me in voting for Kasich to send a message to the GOP that civility, rationality, and, yes, sanity are the true future of the party, and only those politicians who accept this will be partners in shaping the future of this country.