John Kasich literally standing at a crossroads
John Kasich literally standing at a crossroads (DNC Video media still)

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.”

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts