April 25, 2016

DAVIES | The Party of Strife

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Sen.Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) have agreed to coordinate their efforts to prevent Donald Trump from securing the Republican nomination. The Donald’s insightful eye was quick to see this “collusion” for what it was — “DESPERATION!” (his caps). Although one may lament its author’s ineloquence, the truthfulness of the claim is evident. Cruz, despised by the upper echelons of Republican command, may have the upper hand over Kasich, no establishment darling but no firebrand, but their political fortunes are entwined — both have pinned their hopes on a second ballot at the Republican convention in July, a showdown which will come to pass only if they can prevent the Trump juggernaut amassing those hallowed 1,237 pledged delegates.

The pact sees Kasich agree to “give the Cruz campaign a clear path in Indiana” and Cruz ceding New Mexico and Oregon. This is a choice founded on demographics but also the cost of advertising in these states. The Kasich campaign is penniless by presidential standards and the Ohio governor’s vow to fight until Cleveland is running on fumes. It’s surprising that Trump hasn’t come up with some disparaging nickname based on this fact. Lyin’ Ted and Hapless John vs. Whinin’ Donald.

Looking at this alliance of convenience, it seems a good deal for both campaigns (surprising considering the deal-making impotence that afflicts all but The Donald). Admittedly painting with a broad brush, the moderate gets the moderate states and the conservative gets the conservative state.

Except John Kasich ain’t no moderate. As governor of Ohio, many assume him to be a centrist Republican — fiscally conservative, socially moderate. His perpetually smiling face and avuncular debate stage presence, reminiscent of a happy yet indignant garden gnome, further burnish this perception. But Kasich’s appeal as a compassionate conservative is a ploy for this election season. It’s all a façade.

To take one of his positions, Kasich, like many other Republicans, granted, called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. The entire coordinated assault on Planned Parenthood depended on a very selective interpretation of facts, omitted many important aspects, and completely refused to accept that Planned Parenthood does not use federal funding to provide abortions. You lose the semblance of sensibility when you call for cutting spending without understanding its impact or even its basic function. Political posturing be damned, Americans should not vote a president into office who cannot stand up to his own party on matters of fact.

So Cruz and Kasich aren’t all that far apart on the issues. What splits them apart is perceptions of their electability. Cruz is seen as unelectable by many — his promise to energize massive turnout among very conservative voters seems unlikely to balance out his losses among the center. Kasich would be a much surer bet. He would carry Ohio and be competitive in major swing states.

However, electability is no substitute for passion. Cruz’s grassroots fanaticism and sizable war chest have helped him develop a ground game that continues to deliver his choice candidates into state delegations to the Republican National Convention. In contrast, Kasich has barely competed in this aspect of the primary. The Cruz campaign’s efforts have stymied even The Dealmaker himself, prompting Trump to denounce the delegate selection process as “rigged” (considering Trump’s construction endeavours and racial prejudice in letting apartments, I’m sure he knows a thing or two about bending the rules).

As a result of his strength among delegates it seems highly likely that Cruz will, on a second ballot on which many delegates become unbound, have sufficient support to win the nomination and certainly enough to prevent Trump from reaching a majority. Despite Trump’s strength among voters, the rules — byzantine as they are but known to all — crafted by the Republican establishment will offer him only one shot, a single vote, with which to secure the nomination.

John Kasich looks set to be little more than a spectator in this battle. That said, maybe the party will turn to a white knight after baulking at the prospect of handing the reins of power to Ted Cruz. This might appeal to tired and angry convention delegates but it would be unwise in the long-term. Selecting John Kasich might boost Republican prospects in November but ignoring the will of the voters and cutting off the Trump rump of the party could have unforeseen consequences, to say the least. Besides, do you really want a garden ornament with his finger on the nuclear button?

Alex Davies is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at ajd253@cornell.edu. Have I Got News For You? appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.

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