When John Kasich was elected governor not quite two years ago, and the Republicans took over the legislature and all state offices, I thought we Ohioans were well and truly screwed. After all, he had worked for the evil Lehman Bros. Kasich is best known nationally for his support of Senate Bill 5, the law that effectively outlawed collective bargaining for public employees. Fortunately, it went down to ignominious defeat with 61% of Ohio voters tossing it out last November.
But Kasich hasn’t been all bad. In fact, he has pleasantly surprised me on a number of occasions. For example, the main thrust of his Medicaid reform has been to shift more money to home health care for senior citizens, and he had to take on the powerful nursing home lobby which was backed by the Koch Bros. to do it. And he succeeded. That took some balls.
He backed off his campaign proposal to privatize the Ohio Turnpike. He stunned the oil lobby by calling for taxes on oil and natural gas drilling. I don’t agree with his proposal to use that revenue to eliminate the state income tax, but a Republican Governor actually calling for a new tax on a powerful business is unusual, to say the least. He vetoed a bill that would let private property owners suck all the water they wanted out of Lake Erie, to the stunned amazement of both the Republican establishment and the environmental lobby.
And he has opposed Republican proposals to resurrect Senate Bill 5 piece by piece, causing such a divide in the state party that the state chairman recently resigned. When asked about it, he said “The people have spoken. I heard them.”
Then today, on Meet the Press, he surprised me again. Five times. First, he said that the government does have a legitimate role to play in providing health care for poor people and for retirees. Second, he declined to endorse Mitt Romney or any other Republican candidate for President, and predicted that the presidential race in Ohio would be “tighter than a tick,” instead of following the typical party line and predicting his state would vote for his party’s eventual nominee. Then, he directly asked Senator Dick Durbin if Congress wanted to wait for “riots in the streets” before they finally got their act together and did something to create jobs.
He refused to endorse the Ryan budget, saying that creating jobs should be Congress’ number one priority. He also said he believed in “reasonable” government regulations of business.
Maybe Kasich is remembering that his father was a mailman. Maybe he wants to get re-elected and knows if he takes the hardcore Republican line he will be thrown out on his ear. Maybe he learned something from the Senate Bill 5 debacle. Maybe he’s discovered his inner Eisenhower. Maybe he really does want to do what he thinks is best for Ohio and realizes that the Koch Bros. agenda ain’t it.
At any rate, if John Kasich is any example of the big, bad, scary Republican I will get if I vote for a third party candidate with whom I mostly agree, I’ll take my chances on seeing someone like that get into office over someone like Barack Obama any day.
Happy Easter, Governor Kasich, from a card-carrying member of the Socialist Party USA.