The Corner

Politics & Policy

Why John Kasich Keeps Reminding Us His Dad Was a Mailman

Former Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks at the site of a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 2019. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

Former governor of Ohio John Kasich will speak at the Democratic National Convention tonight. With the ongoing — and frequently overwrought — worries that the U.S. Postal Service will collapse upon the waves of ballots in the mail, it is a near-certainty that Kasich will remind us, for what seems like the millionth time, that his father was a mailman.

Way back in 2014, our John J. Miller wrote, “If Kasich had a dollar for every time he mentioned his father’s job, he might be able to retire with the equivalent of a generous postal-service pension.” Almost every candidate mentions their parents and, to the extent they can plausibly claim humble roots, tries to emphasize their long and difficult climb to political success. But Kasich almost turned it into a mantra, mentioning it so often others turned it into a running gag.

After the Obama campaign carpet-bombed Mitt Romney as an out-of-touch, wealthy, Swiss-bank-account-owning corporate elite — “Mitt Romney: Not One of Us” — you didn’t need a secret decoder ring to understand the point Kasich wanted to emphasize. He was just another kid from just another blue-collar family in small-town America.

Except . . . Kasich was pretty far from just another kid. He wrote a letter to President Nixon that spurred a chance to meet the president in the Oval Office during his freshman year at Ohio State. Fresh out of college, he was hired as a researcher for the Ohio Legislative Service Commission in 1975, and then went to work for a state senator. Four years out of college, Kasich ran for state senate and won — the youngest candidate elected to the state senate at that time. Four years later, Kasich was elected to Congress.

Kasich had even more reason to emphasize his humble roots during the 2016 cycle. In between his years in Congress and election as governor of Ohio, he worked for Lehman Brothers, the firm that set off the Wall Street crash in 2008. Kasich said he knew “next to zero” about investment banking when he was hired, but described himself as “just a hard-working banker traveling the country.”

Kasich himself didn’t have many years of hardscrabble blue-collar work to cite. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a person spending his entire career in white-collar environments. In a less populist era, Kasich could justifiably argue he had more experience with government and the reality of how it works than any of his rivals. But that sounds too much like a “well-connected political insider” and Kasich’s past work for Lehman Brothers didn’t help any. Kasich needed to emphasize his father’s unpretentious, non-lucrative profession — and did so, over and over and over again.

Sometime tonight, John Kasich is probably going to lament that the Republican Party nominated Donald Trump to be president in 2016. Anyone with memories going back four years will recall that a contributing factor was Kasich’s refusal to quit the race, despite having won only his home state’s primary, ensuring that the non-Trump vote was split between Kasich and Ted Cruz. In fact, according to Tim Alberta’s book, American Carnage, shortly before withdrawing from the race, Cruz privately met with Kasich and declared, “Respectfully, you’re not going to win this nomination, and if you are really invested in preventing Donald Trump from being the Republican nominee, you need to drop out of this race. One of us has to, or he is on a glide path to the nomination.” Kasich told Cruz, “Ted, I am going all the way to the convention in Cleveland. Nothing you can say is going to change my mind about this.”

A few days later, Cruz lost the Indiana primary and decided to quit the race. One day later, contradicting what he had said in their private meeting, Kasich quit the race as well.

A few people in this world are more responsible for Donald Trump being president than John Kasich, but not many. Hillary Clinton, maybe James Comey . . .