Editorial: The challenge for Kasich and the rest

  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, visits New England College in Henniker on Tuesday. AP

Thursday, April 05, 2018

To the surprise of a lot of Americans, Donald Trump proved that the low road leads to the front door of the White House. John Kasich is betting the high road gets you there, too.

Ohio’s Republican governor hasn’t announced whether he will challenge Trump in the next presidential election, but the evidence of a 2020 run is mounting. While in New Hampshire on Tuesday for an event at New England College, Kasich paid another visit to the Monitor to speak with the editorial board about his vision for a kinder, gentler nation. Collectively, his answers to our questions about Trump and the state of American politics in general amounted to a CliffsNotes version of the State of the State address he delivered at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, on March 6. There are many things Kasich doesn’t like about Trump and his administration, but good luck getting a list out of him. He would rather talk about St. Augustine than Scott Pruitt, Friedrich Nietzsche than Betsy DeVos, Thomas Aquinas than Ben Carson – and in the endless Trump news cycle, that can be refreshing.

But we wonder how effective a philosophical candidate can be against an unphilosophical president who bullies people into submission for sport and holds zero reverence for truth.

Kasich is a thoughtful, intelligent, kinetic person who speaks with a volatile intensity, even when he is discussing the deepest aspects of existence or the qualities of human love. If he is going to challenge Trump, he will have to find a way to speak to voters about compassion and humility while fending off attacks from a man who views such traits as human weaknesses that he himself does not possess. He will have to find a way to channel any anger or frustration he feels into sharp, verbal edges that slice through Trump’s Twitter feed.

Albert Camus, another one of Kasich’s favorite philosophers, spent much of his life writing about the high road of human existence that Kasich favors. But above all else, Camus was tormented by human injustice. The same man who wrote with so much empathy and compassion for his fellow human beings in The Myth of Sisyphus and The Rebel also wrote pointed, rage-filled editorials in a French resistance newspaper during the Nazi occupation in which he condemned German killers and French cowards alike – and he did so by naming them and their offenses whenever possible. While the tone of his essays differs from that of his political editorials, there is an undeniable unity in the content: Part of being a good person, part of living a meaningful life, is refusing to avert your eyes from injustice.

We’re glad that Kasich has planted his flag on the high road, and we hope every candidate, in every race and from both parties, joins him there as the nation continues to debate gun control, immigration, nuclear proliferation, climate change, health care and so many other issues that divide Americans. But we also hope that in the process of elevating the national dialogue, these high-minded candidates are willing to veer off the path once in a while to boldly confront the bully of the low road.