Recently, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio has received a lot of press for his criticism of his own party, though I’m still holding onto my praise. In the wake of the Affordable Care Act, states have reevaluated their own health programs, with Ohio attempting to expand its Medicaid program for 275,000 poor Ohioans. Despite this effort being blocked in many other states by the Tea Party and other right-wing leaders, Kasich has instead championed the program, labeling the opposition’s goals as a “war on the poor.”
The New York Times discussed Kasich as two sided: “He embodies conventional Republican fiscal priorities—balancing the budget by cutting aid to local governments and education—but defies many conservatives in believing government should ensure a strong social safety net.”
While I am completely content that he believes this, I struggle to reconcile this change of heart so close to his reelection. In his past he has championed such legislation as Ohio Senate Bill 5, designed to strictly restrict collective bargaining. But after its embarrassing (for him) defeat in 2011, Kasich changed his tune and began to greatly support the expansion of social programs.
Facing the likely Democrat nominee Ed FitzGerald, current Cuyahoga County Executive, Kasich is likely looking to expand his base. Thus, while he is currently receiving reprimands from his own party, his reelection will only happen in accord with the support of his own people. That support comes in the form of a strong social safety net.
His motives are not entirely pure, however. Kasich is up against the legacy of a failed attempt to silence workers’ voices and signing a budget that not only discriminates against women, but also cut revenues to local governments. In his reelection, he will have to relive all of these failures as governor.
If Kasich begins to gain ground in the polls, we have to reassess how we hold elected officials accountable. For many politicians, they never see the repercussion of their actions. This is quite apparent with the Tea Party leaders who shut down the government because of their opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Many of those Tea Party leaders came from gerrymandered districts where they won by a large margin. Thus, they are never held accountable by neither the more moderate faction of their party or swing voters.
For many Ohioans, Kasich has a moderate past, such as when he advocated for the smaller voices and those without health care. But on other issues, he has completely turned around. In addition to that, the efforts of the far right have pushed Kasich even further into neo-conservative territory. As Ohioans, we must be aware of his past and what he is capable of. When the election comes around, we must hold him responsible.