The Republican Party is a collection of closed-minded reactionaries that faces electoral catastrophe in November. But don’t take my word for it — take John Kasich’s.
“Frankly, my Republican Party doesn’t like ideas,” Kasich said in an interview with The Post’s editorial board Wednesday morning. “They want to be negative against things.” There have been exceptions, he noted, such as Jack Kemp and Paul Ryan. But, he said, “most of ’em — the party is kind of a knee-jerk against.”
Kasich does not argue that the party has become too conservative. Kasich is himself quite right-wing. He instead argues that Republicans are often simply unreasonable. “I think we’ve over-dramatized our situation,” he said, countering the apocalyptic campaign narratives of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who spin tales about dark forces ruining the country. “We’ve had worse times in this country, far worse times in this country. We’ll be fine.” In another election, Kasich’s pitch might have proved more effective. This year, reasonableness is even less popular than usual among GOP voters.
The results, Kasich warns, will be disastrous for the party. If Republicans nominate a candidate who panders to certain voters’ fears and suspicions, Kasich said, “I think we’ll probably get wiped out, probably lose the United States Senate, the courthouse, the statehouse.” Republicans cannot win crucial swing-state Ohio with a negative message, he explained. “After that, there will be this soul-searching,” he said, but he could not predict what sort of party would emerge from “the ashes.”
Kasich, of course, has self-serving reasons to make these arguments. He is losing to two men who represent various shades of ruinous reaction. But Kasich’s grim view from the trenches is nevertheless a reminder that the country lacks a responsible conservative party, one more like the Conservatives in Britain, interested in governing a pluralistic democracy rather than seeking temporary political advantage by tearing down the institutions and norms that make such governing possible. The GOP’s trend toward irresponsibility is not new. A responsible conservative party would not deny climate change, for example. Instead, it would press for replacing expensive green energy subsidies with market-based climate policies. But the unreasonableness has gotten worse and worse over the past several years, reaching an intolerable crescendo with Trump and Cruz.
Kasich seems unlikely to save the party from the disaster he forecasts. Assuming his predictions of electoral doom prove right, will the GOP reshape itself into a more constructive force after November? It seems too much to hope. But my guess is as good as Kasich’s.