"Oh no," Kasich supporters must be thinking. "Just what we need. A liberal endorsement."
Worry not. I do not like John Kasich because I agree with him. Heavens, no. I disagree with him about almost everything.
I do not think he is a liberal. He is hardly my definition of moderate. He only looks moderate compared to some folks who make their fellow conservatives shudder. You know whom I mean.
The reason I like John Kasich is because, in our 10 years or so as political talk show contributors and often cross-talkers, he showed a level of intelligence, honesty and decency that you don't find very often in that world. It is, I think, what is attracting attention on the campaign trail.
He is not pro-abortion rights. Ohio has been a hotbed of anti-abortion activity, and abortions are harder to get — more restricted, with fewer clinics — since Kasich took office. But unlike many of his rivals, he doesn't stumble when asked if he'd support a law that included exceptions for rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother. He just says yes and moves on.
Seriously: are these guys really saying that the government should decide that a mother's life is worth less than that of her unborn child? What in the world gives a bunch of (mostly) guys in a state legislature the right to make that decision? And how in the world can that be such a difficult question to answer for men who would stake out a claim to the most powerful and difficult job in the world?
John Kasich is not pro-gay rights. But when asked what he would do if his daughter were gay, he said he would love her unconditionally. Yes, dare I say, of course.
How can that possibly be a hard question? Yet in these circles, it is. In these circles, going to a gay wedding — as Kasich said he'd done — is a distinguishing characteristic. Maybe at the next debate someone should go down the line and ask the candidates if they would, or have, attended a gay wedding. I bet there would be some stumbling on that one, even though it's a question anyone running today should anticipate. And I bet there would be some very proud "no's" from those who still want to take the fight to a public that knows better.
People always laugh when I tell them my first campaign was for a Republican, Ed Brooke of Massachusetts, my father's classmate and friend, in his first run (I think it was for attorney general). I will always remember how proud I was of my Brooke sash that I put on over my shirt. Ed Brooke was a moderate Republican, a species nearing extinction in the Republican Party.
The Republican Party of today is a long way from the socially moderate and economically conservative party of Ed Brooke and even the early Richard Nixon, as is evident when you see some of these guys doing somersaults to try to prove their absolutist credentials. But there's at least some evidence in the early polls, and in the reactions to candidates such as Kasich and Fiorina, that the orthodoxy of the 1992 Republican Party, which was ready to declare holy war, may be weakening, even if just a bit.
Which is not to say that John Kasich is bringing back the old, moderate Republican Party. Kasich is a conservative. No question about it. He's just a better version.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)
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