Returning from travels last spring that took us across the Midwest, my wife Sue and I had an opportunity to visit with Ohio Gov. John Kasich at his state Capitol office in Columbus. Thanks to Tom Lopach of Gov. Bullock’s staff for arranging our meeting through his counterpart on Kasich’s staff.
Kasich, readers may recall, was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. My purpose was to persuade him to run again in 2020. I told him that our country needs stable and balanced leadership. I told him that he reflects those attributes better than anyone in either political party today.
I told him I would support him as a Republican or independent candidate, and that while independent candidacies have never fared well in our established two-party system, we might need an independent now to overcome our divisive polarization. He committed to nothing, but listened intently, as a bustle of activity sometimes swirled around us as we talked.
In extensive travels in recent months I’ve witnessed a nation of people at each other’s throats. Those who aren’t deeply angry at one political party are angry at both of them. Kasich, who carried 86 of 88 counties in Ohio when reelected in 2014 has demonstrated that there can be an effective unifying message in these divided times. But Kasich is not merely a motivator. He is the consummate competent leader. He took over a state in 2010 with a $6 billion debt, and had it running in the black by the end of his first term.
That achievement could not have been accomplished without challenges and controversy. When the dust settled however, the people of Ohio respected Kasich for his fair, wise and consistently transparent approach to frequently painful problem solving. He remains one of the most highly rated governors in the country.
My intuition tells me that Kasich will again run for president. A more concrete basis for that conclusion, however, is that he recently wrote a book, “Two Paths: America Divided or United,” which reads very much like it was written by someone who sees himself in the nation’s future.
The book is readable and thoughtful. As a Montanan I especially enjoyed the opening chapter, which contains a gripping account of an encounter with a moose that Kasich and his daughter had several years ago in Glacier National Park. In fact, in our brief 10 minute visit with him, Gov. Kasich told Sue and me that he has visited Glacier Park perhaps as many as 10 times over the years to hike, unwind, collect his thoughts and immerse himself in the majesty of nature. He implied that these quiet times are fundamental to him.
Kasich served in Congress prior to his very successful terms as governor of the big state of Ohio. The last time Congress enacted a balanced budget was 20 years ago, during the Clinton administration, when young Congressman Kasich was chair of the House Budget Committee.
Kasich understands, as described in his book, how long-term solutions can only come from a unified approach, which can only come from a working relationship of trust and good faith. He has just proven that is possible in the political battleground state of Ohio, as he did previously in the no-holds-barred arena that is Congress.
Kasich inspired our respect with his penetrating intellect. He is warm and engaging. It is easy to see how he brings people together.
If Kasich becomes president, the people will be glad they chose him. He will lead us away from a dysfunctional America Divided toward a problem solving America United.
Bob Brown, a Whitefish Republican, is a former Montana secretary of state and state Senate president.