(Stephen Crowley / New York Times Syndicate)

February 21, 2021

Former Gov. John Kasich Calls for Political Unity, Discusses Future of Republican Party

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Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich spoke on bipartisan divisions and the post-Trump future of the Republican Party during a Feb. 17 virtual event.

Kasich served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 to 2001, and was governor of Ohio until 2019. He also was a Republican presidential candidate in the 2016 election. 

Kasich started the event by asserting that he was very concerned about the conditions in the country, particularly the divisions between the Democrats and Republicans. 

“The greatest concern I have for our country is that we’re coming apart, not just in politics, but in our lives, our culture.” Kasich said.

The Institute of Politics and Global Affairs and the government department invited Prof. Steve Israel, government, to moderate and curate student questions alongside former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.).

According to Kasich, the past five years leading up to and throughout the Trump administration, have widened the gap between political parties.

“This is not just a problem that affects our politics; it’s a problem that’s affecting our country.” said Kasich, citing the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol as a recent example of violent partisanship.

Kasich believed that religion could help rectify this divide, saying that religion can increase personal integrity.  

“If we realize what religion really is — love God, love your neighbor — then people stop demonizing each other and wanting to destroy each other,” he said. 

The former Ohio governor also expressed hope that President Joe Biden could reunite the country through optimism and compromise. 

“I’m going to raise my voice if I see Biden going left or being partisan, but I don’t blame him,” he said.

In 2016, Kasich was the last Republican candidate standing before former President Donald Trump and in 2020, he spoke in favor of Biden at the Democratic Convention, as he saw Trump as a negative populist who stirs dissent and projects blame onto others.

“We have been coming apart for a long time. I think Trump was a symptom, or a manifestation, of the frustration so many people have had,” Kasich said. He refused to support Trump and blamed the 2020 Democratic win on Republican Trump supporters.

On a congressional level, Kasich called for more bipartisanship to solve national problems. He cited failing infrastructure, a growing wealth gap and partisan debates over environmental policy as subjects to collectively address. He wished for more conservatives to get on board with such conservations and for Democrats to compromise by resisting what he saw as the extreme left.

He also advocated for broader immigration programs and effective progress on the second stimulus package. He urged Republicans to accept Biden’s compromises and pass the bill.

On the local level, Kasich highlighted coming together to solve local issues. When people with different political views come together to solve problems affecting their shared communities, he explained, they may learn to see eye-to-eye.

“If we are working at a food bank [together],” he said, as one example, “We soon begin to meld our differences, because we are attacking a common problem.”

The panel also discussed rehabilitating the Republican party in the wake of the Trump presidency. Kasich emphasized a return to the party’s main beliefs: setting common goals and solving problems without government intervention when possible.

He also mentioned bringing more political moderates and underrepresented groups back into the party. “If we want to attract people we don’t attract, we have to listen to their problems and come up with creative solutions to solve their problems,” Kasich said.

Bipartisan friendships and compromise, according to Kasich, can restore the Republican party and unify the country. 

Kasich closed the event by encouraging Cornell students to be more involved in this goal of fostering more bipartisanship on a national and local level. 

“Stand up, believe in something and be a leader where you are,” he said.