Anger is an emotion. People operating at the emotional level are susceptible to manipulation. I’m concerned that many Americans are being deceived by emotional rhetoric, and that electing our next president on the basis of misplaced loyalty to candidates who mirror the emotional currents of the moment will take us to a bad place. In this essay, I want to present a rational argument for Governor John Kasich and against the appeal to emotion embodied by both Trump and Senator Cruz.
First, however, I must clearly define two terms I introduced on this web site and in my campaign for Congress (as an unaffiliated candidate) two years ago: career citizen and career politician. The labels “career citizen” and “career politician” have everything to do with a person’s character and absolutely nothing to do with where they are employed. The two most important character traits of a career citizen are a selfless dedication to the public good and genuine humility. The most obvious character trait of a career politician is a relentless willingness to subordinate anything and everything to attract and maintain popularity with some target group of constituents. I know career politicians who have never been elected to a single public office. I know career citizens who have spent most of their adult lives in elected public office.
The problem with my distinction between career citizens and career politicians is that it is complex. People operating at the level of emotion like simple, and don’t have the patience for complex thoughts. Such people will apply the most favorable label to the candidate they like without ever connecting that label to real behaviors that are inseparable from the character of a career citizen. Career citizens are principled to the point of enduring public criticism rather than catering to a popular whim that violates a core value. Career citizens have enough humility to know that our republic is grounded in the ability of people with different political philosophies to compromise in order to achieve a tangible, practical, positive outcome for the people of America.
George Herbert Walker Bush—the first President Bush (in office 1988-1992)—is the example I provide when people ask me what a career citizen looks like. A combat veteran of World War II, President Bush began his public service by risking his life to defend our country. Therefore, he understood deeply that his service to our republic might well require actions that would be harmful and even deadly to himself. As president, George H.W. Bush was a leader who made decisions based on what he thought was best for the country. He accepted responsibility for his decisions, even when they were not popular with his own party.
Governor John Kasich is a career citizen. Kasich was the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee the last time we had a balanced federal budget, and he worked across the aisle with a Democratic president to achieve this result. Again as Governor of Ohio, the 7th largest state, Kasich turned a budget deficit into a significant surplus. He was one of a very few Republican governors with the courage to support universal healthcare because he believed it saved money for the state. He is a leader with both integrity and humility, and he exemplifies “selfless dedication to the public good” to a greater extent than any other presidential candidate in this election. I believe this is the reason why Kasich polls better against likely Democratic adversaries than either Trump or Cruz.
Neither Trump nor Senator Cruz rise to the level of “career citizen.” In my estimation, both will sacrifice anything and everything for the sake of their own egos. There is a wide gap between Trump’s emotional rhetoric and the way he has lived his life. He has the nerve to cloak himself in the flag and claim he will make America great again, but he hid behind his father’s wallet when many in his generation were being drafted to serve in Vietnam. I see little evidence of anything that would justify his “medical exemption” from the draft, but I know a lot of Vietnam veterans with wounds and other serious medical issues from their service. He has used bankruptcy laws on multiple occasions to cut his own losses at the expense of the vendors and creditors with whom he has done business. As a candidate, he has demonstrated a willingness to trade away constitutional principles in order to advance his own popularity. I fear as our president he would use any pretense to advance his interests at the expense of our country.
Senator Cruz is a divider who has exploited the partisan environment in Washington to increase his personal reputation at the expense of our republic. The government shutdown he engineered made the public debt worse, not better. Cruz uses the mantle of constitutional conservative as if there is only one interpretation of our Constitution, when in fact any educated person should know that American history is one long saga of the ebb and flow of competing interpretations of that great document. By doing this one thing—acting as if there is only one valid interpretation of the Constitution—Cruz fails to live up to the oath he took to support and defend the Constitution.
Character is the single indispensable quality for which I look in a presidential candidate. Character is best assessed by comparing a candidate’s words with the way he or she has lived their lives. For that reason alone, I endorse John Kasich for President.