By John Brummett
Originally published on October 24, 2018 on Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette
A problem for Democrats is that the most compelling anti-Trump currently on the scene is a Republican.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich remains for now a Republican—if, that is, Republicans still believe in tax cuts, spending cuts, balanced budgets, conservative economics, pro-life policies and character.
Kasich is the only currently prominent American politician who passionately and credibly challenges the man-child president where he needs to be challenged, on decency and morality and compassion.
You’re not going to beat Trump by joining him in his squalor or taking a DNA test to play his game or by arguing that the economy is no good no matter what the indicators say.
You might beat him only because most of America sees him for the megalomaniacal and values-devoid disgrace that he is, and would prefer, given a valid choice, a better person as their president.
But you must be better, not merely say you’re better.
Even some in Trump’s base concede his deep flaws but mitigate what they see by pointing to the other side and saying, “Yeah, but what about that?”
Bill Clinton was no moral paragon, they’ll say.
There was a classic Twitter thread on that point the other day: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted about Trump’s business ties to the Saudi Arabians and said it would be interesting to see how Trump reacted to the journalist’s brutal murder and dismemberment in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. And the right-wing actor James Wood replied, “You mean the Saudis who contributed $25 million to the Clintons?” meaning the Clintons’ foundation.
There is always a Clinton sin hanging there for Republican symmetry.
Hanging a woman out in public so that you can smear a man over a Supreme Court nomination was the antithesis of virtue, Trump defenders will say.
The main element of real moral strength is not declaring it or making a public demonstration of it. Instead, it is engaging in it when people aren’t looking.
Here, then, is a story I’ve written once and told several times. It was related to me more than two years ago by a Republican in good standing, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who had summoned me to the Governor’s Mansion for a sandwich.
He wanted to explain that, if I believed in Medicaid expansion, as I did, then I might consider being a little less ridiculing and incendiary when he tried to add conservative “reforms” to save it with a Republican Legislature.
The story Hutchinson told was that, shortly after he was elected in 2014, he and other newly elected GOP governors got invited to attend a meeting of the Republican Governors Association. At a session around a large table, the newly elected GOP governors were asked to rise one by one, identify themselves and state their biggest challenges upon entering office.