Politics & Policy

John Kasich: A Theocrat the Left Can Love

Kasich speaks at a town hall in Raymond, N.H., February 3, 2016. (Andrew Burton/Getty)

If the Left is truly interested in cleansing religion from the public square — in separating church and state — it should positively loathe John Kasich. After all, Kasich is no less religious than Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, two “anti-intellectual wingnuts” the Left loves to hate. And he’s no less ashamed to bring faith into the political arena.

In an interview with Morning Joe earlier today, Kasich credited his Saturday debate performance to a walk with God:

Want me to tell you what I did? Before I went to the debate – we didn’t do a lot of preparation. I said, Lord, you took me to the top of the mountain. I have to walk down. Don’t let me walk alone. And he didn’t. He helped me out. How do you like that?

The statement made things slightly awkward for the largely secular New Hampshire crowd around Kasich, but he didn’t care. He was speaking from the heart.

Yet this is the Left’s favorite right-winger, the man the New York Times just endorsed, declaring that he’s “capable of compromise and believes in the ability of government to improve lives.” To a liberal, isn’t infusing politics with faith the worst thing a Republican politician can do?

Ah, but Kasich is the right kind of Christian politician — the kind whose relationship with God leads him to advocate progressive policies. While fighting to expand Medicaid in Ohio, he made direct, faith-based appeals:

I had a conversation with one of the members of the legislature the other day. I said, ‘I respect the fact that you believe in small government. I do, too. I also know that you’re a person of faith.

Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.

There’s nothing like adding a dash of eternal condemnation to the health-care policy debate. Kasich apparently likes this line: He used it to tear into one questioner at a gathering of Republican donors last year.

#share#Then there was this extraordinary response to critics, delivered at a question and answer session sponsored by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce:

I go to events where people are yelling at me. You know what I tell them? I mean, God bless them, I’m telling them a little bit better than this.

But I said, there’s a book. It’s got a new part and an old part. They put it together. It’s a remarkable book. If you don’t have one, I’ll buy you one. And it talks about how we treat the poor.

In other words, if you don’t like Medicaid expansion, read the Bible.

There’s nothing unusual about the Left mixing religion and politics — so long as the politics are correct. In 2013, Dianne Feinstein famously opened her gun-control press conference with a prayer, and the dean of the National Cathedral declared, “I believe that the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.” That same year, the New York Times gleefully tweaked religious conservatives when Alabama’s Republican governor, Bob Riley, used biblical arguments to justify his progressive tax reforms:

But win or lose, Alabama’s tax-reform crusade is posing a pointed question to the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and other groups that seek to import Christian values into national policy: If Jesus were active in politics today, wouldn’t he be lobbying for the poor?

I don’t resent Kasich’s faith arguments. Though I strongly disagree with many of his conclusions, I’m happy to engage in debate on his terms. What is absurd, however, is the notion that the “wall of separation” between church and state should only apply to certain churches — that faith in politics is welcome when it reinforces liberal pieties and an abomination when it advances the conservative cause. Kasich is proud to preach his social gospel, and the Left is happy to applaud him for it. Christian conservatives should be just as vocal in their dissent, lest they wake up to find that theirs is the only faith excluded from the public square.

— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.

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