Kasich appeared with CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday to call for an end to the Trump era. “We can’t continue to go down this path. . . . I mean, people are now speaking to each other if they disagree with them with through clenched teeth. There’s almost hatred going on,” he explained. “This has to stop because the great things that happened in our country — whatever they are, women suffrage, civil rights — they happen when we come together, not when we’re divided.”
Kasich thinks Biden is the kind of unifier we need. More precisely, the former Ohio governor argues that, if one thinks Trump is a threat to the republic, it is not enough to stay home or write in a third party. “I’ve had enough of this. I’ve had enough of the division and everything else, and not getting anything done,” Kasich said. “So, to just sit it out again and say well I’m not going to be for Trump and not lend my support to somebody, I — it doesn’t make sense for me this time around.” You can either accept Trump as the new normal, or you can recognize he is a dangerous detour into unhinged populism and unfit for the job.
What other Republicans might be with Kasich in search of a center-right alternative? He named former governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Never Trumper Bill Kristol. But there are quite a few others, such as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), former senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee, former Florida congressman David Jolly and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. This, however, is the wrong question to ask. The real question is: “What does a center-right party want to be about?”
Kasich’s answer diagnosed the problem and suggested a new path. “The problem with the Republican Party now, is to some degree, it’s stuck in the old.” Kasich argued that Republicans are no longer relevant to many voters because they are stuck either in the 1980s or in Trump’s populist crazy-land; instead, Kasich offered, they need to focus on issues that matter — especially to younger voters, “whether it’s the environment, whether it’s the issue of race, whether it is the issue of what we’re going to do about the wealth gap, what we’re going to do about education.” That is certainly a start. Republicans will also have to quit their fixation with cutting the top marginal tax rate as an answer to every problem (indeed, it may be part of the problem).
If disaffected Republicans can decide what is important and devise creative solutions that blend nimble government and the private markets (just as the Niskanen Center does), there is a rationale for a party. No matter what, it will have to lay out a positive vision that has something to do with 21st-century America. If they build it (a new party, a new ideology), perhaps others will come.