From time to time in the course of history, the enemy of your enemy turns out to be Republican former Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
At the opening night of the Democrats’ virtual national convention, nominally held in Milwaukee but actually held online due to coronavirus concerns, Kasich addressed his rival party in a taped segment to say that he was backing the Democrat Joe Biden for the presidency.
“I’m a lifelong Republican, but that attachment holds second place to my responsibility to my country,” Kasich said in a video that showed him standing at a split in a gravel path, symbolizing two paths for the future. “That’s why I’ve chosen to appear at this convention. In normal times, something like this would probably never happen. But these are not normal times.”
Kasich added that, “there are areas where Joe and I absolutely disagree” but that “we can do better than what we’ve been seeing today, for sure. And I know that Joe Biden, with his experience and his wisdom and his decency, can bring us together to help us find that better way.”
Addressing disenchanted Republicans and independents concerned that Biden might make a “sharp left” if they vote for him, Kasich assured them, “No one pushes Joe Biden around.”
Some left-wing Democrats had objected to Kasich receiving around four minutes of speaking time when other progressive party phenoms such as U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York were given only 60 seconds to speak. Kasich himself fanned those tensions in a pre-convention interview with BuzzFeed in which, decrying the “extreme” wings of the parties, he said that just “because AOC gets outsized publicity doesn’t mean she represents the Democratic Party. She’s just a part, just some member of it.”
In a fundraising email sent before Kasich spoke, Ocasio-Cortez retorted, “An anti-choice, anti-worker Republican does not get to decide who represents the Democratic Party.”
But Kasich’s presence, and that of other Republicans who spoke in the same segment, is a pitch to the crossover voters the Democratic Party is hoping to attract in its bid to reclaim the White House and the Senate.
Kasich (pronounced KAY-sick) was one of Trump’s most dogged moderate adversaries during the 2016 GOP primary, pressing his case against the former reality TV star long after many of his career Republican counterparts were felled by the party’s nativist insurgency. During the race, he praised globalism, free trade, and immigration expansion — issues of the kind of outward-facing GOP orthodoxy that Trump fully rejected during his successful bid to put “America First.”
“The terrible thing is Americans are faced — increasingly, I hear from people — with no choice,” Kasich said in a 2016 MSNBC interview about the campaign shaping up between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “They are not keen on Trump and they don’t like Hillary either. It’s a vexing situation.”
Kasich, whose parents were postal workers, served in Congress for almost two decades before leaving public service in 2001 to work for the Lehman Brothers investment firm, which collapsed in the 2008 financial crisis. Two years later, he defeated incumbent Democratic Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland to start his two terms in office as governor of the Buckeye State.