Former Republican officeholders, from Washington to Washington, are improbably joining front ranks of the opposition to Republican incumbent Donald Trump.
With former Ohio Governor John Kasich in the lead, they were displayed Monday night at the decentralized 2020 Democratic National Convention.
“Solid Kasich job – Amazing times,” tweeted Mike Murphy, the former John McCain strategist. “GOP governor of Ohio batting hard for the Democratic candidate.”
As long ago as the spring of 2019, two Republican luminaries in this Washington – former three-term Governor Dan Evans and ex‑U.S. Senator Slade Gorton – said they would not be supporting Trump’s 2020 reelection effort. Both were Kasich supporters when the Ohio governor ran for president in 2016.
The erratic behavior of Trump, Trump’s vengeance, and loss of America’s position in the world seem seem to have motivated the Republicans’ blue-bloods. What influence they can still exercise in the party of Lincoln is highly questionable.
The party of Lincoln has become the party of Trump. The narcissistic television performer spoke the truth in 2016 when he said: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?
“It’s, like, incredible,” Trump added.
No dissent is permitted in the party of Trump.
Conservative Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona was hounded into retirement after daring to dissent from the boss. Ex-Attorney General Jeff Sessions was never forgiven for appointing a special counsel in the Russia probe, and was doomed by Trump when he tried to win his old Senate seat back.
Trump has continued to denounce Senator John McCain after the widely respected senator died. He has belittled Senator and former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and called Sen. Ben Sasse, R‑Nebraska, a “RINO” (Republican in Name Only” after Sasse questioned the presidential order suspending the payroll tax.
Hence, it took considerable courage for Kasich to declare: “I’m a lifelong Republican but that attachment takes second place to my responsibility to my country.”
Kasich has been a state legislator, chair of the House Budget Committee, Governor of Ohio and candidate for President. As House Budget Chair in the 1990s, he provided important support for removal of two salmon-killing dams on the Elwha River, taking a look at the Olympic stream and saying this was a conservation project that conservatives could support.”
Defectors have not influenced recent presidential elections.
Senator Joe Lieberman, D‑Connecticut, Al Gore’s 2000 running mate, lined up behind McCain in 2008 and campaigned for even McCain in Seattle.
Though the Bush delegates loved him, nobody else paid much attention when Senator Zell Miller, D‑Georgia, spoke for George W. in 2004.
Former Secretary of State Collin Powell may be the exception, with an Obama endorsement and this year’s statement that he will vote for Joe Biden.
But the list of Republican blue bloods going “red” is impressive and includes people with vast experience in governing.
Former President George W. Bush did not endorse in 2016, and friends say he will not vote for Trump. Senator Romney wrote in the name of wife Ann in 2016, and has said he won’t vote for Trump this year.
Ex-New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman also spoke to Democrats on Monday night. So did Quibi CEO Meg Whitman, who spent “$140 million as Republican candidate for Governor of California, running against Jerry Brown.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, R‑Alaska, said in June: “I am struggling with it [a Trump vote]. I have struggled with it for a long time.”
Ex-South Carolina Representative Mark Sanford, defeated in a primary after a nasty Trump tweet, will not vote for Republican incumbent.
One group of dissidents has repeatedly raised Trump’s ire.
The Lincoln Project, a venture formed by several savvy Republican strategists, has run scorched earth TV spots. The TV ads have also gone after such Republican senators as Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado.
Trump blew up at a spot that mirrored the famous 1984 “Morning in America” spot by the Reagan campaign, only suggesting that America has become “weaker, and sicker, and poorer” under his regime.
Trump wrote that the Lincoln Project was “a disgrace to honest Abe,” called campaign strategist Rick Wilson “crazed,” and abused George Conway, spouse of presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway. “I don’t know what Kellyanne did to her deranged loser of a husband, but it must have been really bad.”
Few American voters are undecided this year, but those who are live mainly in the suburbs. The defecting Republicans are aiming to secure converts in just the right places, mainly in the upper Midwest.
Having burned bridges, they are also having fun at their job.
Of course, there is principle involved. Said Kasich: “We are being taken down the wrong road by a president who has pitted one of us against the other.”
In a galvanizing 1940 convention speech, as Europe was falling to the Nazis, Eleanor Roosevelt steadied a balky convention by urging Democrats to respect the judgment of her husband, proclaiming: “These are no ordinary times.”
The Kasich message on Monday night: “These are not normal times.”