The following was recently obtained by Ohio Conservative Review and is published with the author’s permission as an open letter to Bret Baier of Fox News.
Mike Snead, President Dayton TEA Party
Subject: Refuting Mr. Baier’s assertion that Ohio Gov. John Kasich is a conservative Republican
Dear Mr. Baier,
I am writing to address and correct your perception that Ohio Gov. John Kasich is viewed by the TEA Party citizenry in Ohio as a center-right Republican politician. That you personally have this impression was made clear by your remarks on Fox News’ The Hannity Show on Friday, January 30, 2015. While commenting on Mitt Romney’s apparent decision not to run for president in 2016, you mentioned Gov. Kasich as a potential unity candidate within the Republican Party because of his center-right political positions. For reasons listed below, I do not believe such an opinion is supported by either his rhetoric or his record as governor.
Contrasted with the straight-forward and consistently conservative rhetoric and actions of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has made himself into a complex politician in terms of his evolving rhetoric and his unpredictable actions as governor. While he campaigned for governor in 2010 as a TEA Party conservative — himself noting that he was TEA Party before there was a TEA Party — he has since governed and increasingly spoken on important political issues as a progressive Republican. He now favors larger government, increased taxes, and increased federal debt, while favoring social policies more aligned with traditional progressive Democratic goals such as forced unionization, social equality, and unending government entitlements. Although he barely won election in 2010 against an ultra-progressive Democratic governor running an $8 billion hole in the state budget — winning largely due to the willing and strong grassroots support from many in the TEA Party movement in Ohio — he has since been quick to criticize, falsely label, and politically act harshly and unfairly against conservatives opposing his increasingly progressive political agenda. While Gov. Kasich and his inside-Columbus supporters may portray him as a “conservative,” it is my opinion that this view is not mirrored within the state’s TEA Party/grassroots Republican citizenry.
Here is a partial list of his actions since becoming governor — those readily coming to mind — that I believe dispute any reasonable perception that Governor Kasich should be labeled as a center-right/conservative Republican.
- Right-to-work. Gov. Kasich opposes legislation making Ohio a right-to-work state and has not supported the grassroots petition drive to put this issue on the state ballot. He has adopted this opposition despite the clear worker economic freedom arising from having the liberty to join or not join a union in a right-to-work state. What has made his opposition surprising is the fact that the adjoining states of Michigan and Indiana have already made this change against strong Democratic and union opposition. In 2012, Michigan became a right-to-work state through legislation signed by its governor. In 2014, that incumbent Republican Michigan governor was reelected. In Indiana, with another Republican governor, the recent state legislation making Indiana a right-to-work state was upheld by the Indiana Supreme Court as well as a federal appeals court. In the bordering state of Kentucky, individual counties are seeking the ability to become right-to-work states. On this issue Gov. Kasich is firmly a progressive, not a conservative by any standard here in the Midwest.
- Conservative legislation. Gov. Kasich, as leader of the Republican Party in Ohio, has failed to support legislation implementing improved voter photo ID to protect the integrity of our elections; reinstating paycheck protection for public employees to protect them from being forced to pay for union political activities through automatic deductions; enacting the heartbeat bill to help protect the readily detectable human life of the yet unborn; and preventing the use of foreign law (e.g., Sharia Law) in Ohio legal proceedings. (Note that the Republican Party has a majority in both chambers of the state legislature, meaning that any conservative bill he favors would most likely be passed.) One may conclude only that his failure to support prominent conservative public policies clearly illustrates his progressive stance and willingness to block legislation opposed by large unions and organizations typically supporting Democratic candidates. As noted below, Gov. Kasich is increasingly hesitant to be clear about his values and public policy positions — a typical “establishment” Republican stance.
- Common Core. To the surprise of grassroots voters, Gov. Kasich champions the ultra-progressive Common Core educational standards despite these having been adopted “sight-unseen” by his ultra-liberal Democratic predecessor. He has come to label opposition as “hysteria” and argues falsely that despite the legal mandate of these Common Core educational standards, local school boards are still in control. If this is the case, why then are even home-schooled children being forced to adopt Common Core? My examination of the standards, their implementation, and expert testimony all clearly show that he is not speaking accurately on this topic. Further, he opposed legislation last year that would have replaced the Common Core standards with superior, proven standards. This refutes his assertion that he wants “better” standards as he is refusing to adopt proven better standards. On this issue he is marching in lockstep with progressives of both parties wishing to assert unquestioned top-down control of our children’s education as a means of social and political engineering. In no way can his support for Common Core be viewed as conservative.
- Illegal alien legalization/amnesty. Despite the growing grassroots concern about the impact of illegal aliens and amid growing opposition to their legalization/amnesty, Gov. Kasich recently reversed his position and now favors a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens resident in this country. This is a progressive position on an issue of substantial political and legal/constitutional importance. Clearly, his is not a center-right policy position and is, in fact, just the opposite of what virtually every Republican congressional candidate campaigned on last fall.
- Medicaid expansion. Although Gov. Kasich campaigned in 2010 in opposition to Obamacare, he quickly became a progressive Republican champion of a key provision of Obamacare to expand Medicaid to cover single, work-able adults without children. However, reflecting strong grassroots Republican opposition, the Republican-led state legislature specifically prohibited the adoption of his proposed Medicaid expansion in the last state budget bill. Not accepting the will of the people’s representatives, Gov. Kasich line-item vetoed this provision in the budget bill and then took it to the next step to have this provision adopted through the obscure Controlling Board, ordinarily used to make minor corrections to the execution of the state budget. Even to accomplish this, he had to have two Republican legislators on this board, opposing his action, replaced in order to achieve the needed majority vote. This is an example of the “Chicago-style” progressive political arm-twisting that has taken over the functioning of the state government in Columbus under Gov. Kasich. Acting against the clear wishes of the majority of the state’s Republican representatives and forcing legislators off of a typically noncontroversial board in order to implement his desired policy is not a conservative approach to governing. Further, it should be noted that Ohioans, with a strong majority of 66% in favor, passed a state constitutional amendment in 2011 opposing Obamacare’s implementation in Ohio. This makes Gov. Kasich’s back-door, arm-twisting behavior even more troublesome to grassroots Republican voters.
- Balanced Budget Amendment and federal debt growth. Recently, Gov. Kasich has started to travel the nation championing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution while promoting Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. It appears he is trying to raise his presidential candidate name recognition and draw attention to his House Budget Committee leadership in the 1990s, when the federal budget was briefly balanced. However, as governor he is accepting billions in federal funds each year — all paid for by new federal debt — to cover the cost of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in Ohio, forced through by Gov. Kasich. Originally this was projected to bring 270,000 new enrollees with a cost to the federal government of $13 billion through 2020 for just Ohio. By this coming June, nearly 500,000 will have joined with their cost total exceeding the $2.5 billion budgeted for 2013-2014. Obviously, the original projected cost of $13 billion for Ohio through 2020 will be far exceeded, creating the need for more government spending and more federal debt. Gov. Kasich argues that this is “free” money just sitting unused in Washington DC while ignoring the obvious that it is really new federal debt being placed on the backs of responsible, hard-working Americans and their children and grandchildren. He also argues that this debt, portrayed by him as “charity,” is the Christian thing to do. How could a conservative Republican argue that it is okay to put our children into debt to pay for the needs of single, work-able adults? This is not charity but economic servitude being forced on our children over the majority vote of their parents’ elected representatives. His argument of “free money” is typical progressive political rhetoric while his policies of end-running the clear will of the people’s representatives are also typical of progressives — reminding many of President Obama’s approach to governance. Gov. Kasich past zeal for not adding to the federal debt has vanished as he seeks higher office and the liberal voters to make this happen.
- Ohio Republican Party. The Republican Party in Ohio is formed through voter-elected representatives to county-level Central Committees and a State Central Committee. Most voters don’t even know that these committees exist or that they govern the actions of the party at the county and state levels. After his election in 2010, and again in 2012, Gov. Kasich won a fight within the State Central Committee to have his “guy” named executive director. In 2014, grassroots Republicans made efforts to reassert grassroots control of the State Central Committee by putting candidates up for election. We seek to make the party responsive to its voters. The response to this challenge was that the existing State Central Committee members, who appoint the executive director, voted to endorse themselves for reelection in 2014. The executive director then spent substantial party funds sending mailers to Republican primary voters urging support for these state committee candidates. These mailers said that these candidates were endorsed by the Republican Party — meaning that they had endorsed themselves. Obviously, this was a self-serving action to preserve Gov. Kasich’s control of the Ohio Republican Party. Also, many of the endorsement mailers sent to voters, paid for by the Ohio Republican Party, urged support under the banner “Stop Obamacare” — the very same Obamacare Gov. Kasich has used to pay for his Medicaid expansion. This Kasich-led Ohio Republican Party campaign promise was quickly forgotten. Does any of this reflect the integrity and honesty of a true conservative Republican?
- Romney’s 2012 loss in Ohio. Of particular concern to grassroots Republican Ohio voters is that under Gov. Kasich’s leadership, the Ohio Republican Party was unable to achieve a victory for Mitt Romney in the critical battleground state of Ohio despite everything going wrong under President Obama’s administration. My impression is that the general observation within the grassroots community is that the Republican Party in Ohio did not wage an aggressive, effective campaign in the closing weeks of the 2012 campaign. Romney lost by less than 2% in Ohio. The impression of a lack of an effective statewide campaign also comes from the fact that Mitt Romney got 84,000 fewer votes in Ohio than John McCain did in 2008. It’s now intriguing to note that, with Gov. Kasich’s presidential aspirations becoming increasingly apparent, Romney’s loss in 2012 has certainly “opened the door” for Kasich to run for president in 2016 — an opportunity that would not exist had Romney won in 2012.
- Ohio U.S. Senator election in 2012. During the same 2012 November general election, Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown was up for reelection. He is one of the most progressive Democrats in Congress. He was opposed by the state treasurer Josh Mandel — a young veteran and a member of the new younger conservative wing of the Republican Party in Ohio. Senator Brown won by 6%. As with the circumstances of support for Romney’s campaign, the general impression is that the Ohio Republican Party’s support for Mandel’s campaign was far less substantial than would be expected in a strong fight to win a U.S. Senate seat for Republicans — especially compared to the hard fought Republican Senatorial campaigns of last fall. Thus, in two key national-level battles against ultra-progressive Democratic candidates, the Ohio Republican Party did not do well. What does this hold for 2016 in must-win Ohio against the expected candidacy of Hillary Clinton or a similar strong and well-supported Democratic candidate? Is this the demonstrated campaign fortitude needed to win in 2016 on a conservative campaign platform? Grassroots Ohio Republican voters are, I believe, very concerned that the attitude and skills needed to win Ohio in 2016 are not evident in the Ohio Republican Party. For this reason, grassroots Republican voters need to, in my opinion, assert greater influence in how the 2016 campaigns are undertaken. After two failed elections and the resulting terrible consequences for our nation and our liberty, we can’t afford a third failure.
- Kasich’s 2014 reelection. Gov. Kasich was up for reelection in 2014. In many comparable Republican-led states, Democrats strongly contested the reelection — Wisconsin, Michigan, South Carolina, etc. Surprisingly, such strong opposition did not also happen in the key Republican must-win state of Ohio. Here the Democratic challenger was a largely unknown local politician from Cleveland. During the campaign it was found out that this challenger had apparently driven for years on an expired driver’s license and had been found by the police in a car at 4:30 AM with a woman not his wife.[32, 33] This challenger’s campaign had virtually no funding and no traditional Democratic get-out-the-vote support. Contrast this with the significant and well-funded Democratic challenge that conservative Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker defeated in his hard-fought reelection last year. The disparity is obvious. Grassroots Republicans in Ohio wonder why Gov. Kasich got off so easy in a key 2016 presidential battleground state. Perhaps the fact that he is proposing, supporting, and defending public policies attuned to the political goals of the Democratic Party explains this. It should also be noted that it appears the Ohio Republican Party took steps to prevent the Libertarian candidate from being on either the primary or the November general election ballots. This prevented Ohio voters from being able to cast a protest vote against Kasich in either the primary or general elections. These “unusual” circumstances contributed to Gov. Kasich’s 64% victory he now crows about.
- Kasich and the Republican Party Platform. Grassroots Republican voters generally share strong support for the U.S. Constitution, the Rule of Law, a balanced budget, smaller and more effective government, and integrity and accountability in our government officials. We also generally support the preservation of life and the protection of personal liberty and private property. We also believe in adult responsibility. The Republican Party captures such views in its platform. Thus, this platform broadly defines what it means to be a “Republican.” Gov. Kasich stated that he hasn’t even read the 2012 Republican Platform and does not see it as being important. Also, the Ohio Republican Party has not adopted the Republican Platform and has put off efforts to have it do so. All of this indicates that Gov. Kasich is his own person, advocating his own personal political agenda. Hence, to label him as a conservative Republican has no basis in fact. Rather, Gov. Kasich can only be defined by his rhetoric and, most importantly, his public policy and political actions — all of which, as discussed above, are clearly progressive and not conservative as grassroots Republicans understand the term “conservative” to mean.
Gov. Kasich certainly has the right to pursue the presidency and to define his values and public policy positions. All candidates for this office must be able to do so. What many grassroots Republicans object to, I believe, is redefining the traditional language of “center-right” and “conservative” to mask a candidate’s actual center-left or progressive values and policy positions. Today, being seen as “conservative” is good. However, being an honest conservative, having the integrity to speak clearly about one’s values and policy positions, is held with high esteem by grassroots Republican voters.
If there is one lesson that the American public has learned, it is that honesty and integrity are paramount in the office of president and, by inference, are necessary from the serious Republican candidates for this office in their 2016 campaigns. I believe that the American news media — including Fox News — must respect the integrity of the words used to describe the candidates. Otherwise, they are engaging in “gruberizing” American voters by not speaking plainly and truthfully about the candidates but allowing their own personal or corporate desires to taint their reporting.
In closing, I wish to return to the central point of your remarks on The Hannity Show — that the Republican Party needs unity in order to have a chance at winning the White House in 2016. I am confident that almost all grassroots Republicans want to see the Republican nominee win. The path forward to achieve this does not, at this time, come from focusing on any particular candidate. Rather our party’s focus now must be on providing the primary voters a clear understanding of the candidates’ values and policy positions, on providing choice on the primary ballot to enable voters to best vote their values, and on yielding a nominee seen by grassroots Republicans as having won the nomination “fair and square.” This is how the unity in the general election, needed for victory by the Republican Party, will best be achieved.