Billing himself as a changed man and an anti-Trump pragmatist, former Republican governor of Ohio John Kasich spoke in support of the Biden-Harris ticket at the Democratic National Convention last night.
But his digital presence, to say the least, was jarring for progressives who haven't forgotten what Kasich's historically represents.
While the former Fox News host has worked hard over the years to strike a more moderate tone after years of climate change denial and Tea Party antics, his history speaks for itself.
The Democratic establishment's attempt at unifying their party over the Trump administration with cross-ideology support means they are platforming a man who has a consistent history of anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-union policies.
On Monday evening, Kasich spoke for nearly four minutes while progressive Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will only be allowed one minute on Tuesday evening. Kasich has also openly criticised AOC, saying that just because she “gets outsized publicity doesn't mean she represents the Democratic Party.”
Ocasio-Cortez shot back saying the obvious: “Something tells me a Republican who fights against women’s rights doesn’t get to say who is or isn’t representative of the Dem party.”
Portraying Kasich as some sort of saintly 'Republican moderate with a backbone' only normalises and promotes his quiet, yet vast highly-conservative policy record.
After Kasich left Congress in 2000 following his first unsuccessful presidential run, Kasich had his own show on Fox News and occasionally filled in for Bill O’Reilly. When he ran for governor in Ohio in 2010, he was a tea party member (a highly conservative populist sect of the Republican party). His first major act stripped public employees of their collective bargaining power (although it was quickly overturned because it was so unpopular).
“The people in Ohio who know him are stunned that he has been allowed to get away with calling himself a moderate,” said Sandy Theis, executive director of the liberal think-tank Progress Ohio told The Guardian in 2016, during his presidential run.
Kasich is against reproductive rights.
When Kasich was in Congress early in his career, John Kasich cast 118 anti-choice votes, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Later as governor, he voted to effectively fully de-fund Planned Parenthood, which prohibited entities from accessing public health funding for domestic violence prevention, breast cancer screening, HIV/AIDS treatment, etc.
In 2013, his policies in Ohio required that ultrasounds be performed to look for a heartbeat before an abortion could happen, even if they were not medically necessary.
Most recently in 2019, Kasich signed Senate Bill 145, which would ban a common second-trimester abortion procedure. Physicians could face a fourth-degree felony, punishable by up to 18 months in prison for doing the procedure.
He's anti LGBTQ rights.
During his time in Congress, Kasich voted for the "Defense of Marriage Act," which barred federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Also during this period, Kasich supported a ban on same-sex marriage in Ohio and stated that he did not approve of the "gay lifestyle."
While some say Kasich has since struck a more moderate tone compared to his Republican opponents, being "moderate" on a human rights issue is equally dangerous.
In June 2015, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that there is a fundamental right to same-sex marriage under the Fourteenth Amendment, Kasich said that he was "obviously disappointed" and that he believes in "traditional marriage".
He also used to be a climate sceptic.
He has also in the past dismissed climate change as "some theory that's not proven" (although has lately sort of changed his tune), was for the invasion of Iraq (despite revising history on his comments), pro-prison privatisation, anti-union, and the list goes on.
So why was a politician with Kasich's anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-union, anti-climate record given a platform by a supposedly progressive party?
This feels like a very clear betrayal of the values held by many in the coalition of voters Biden and Harris hope will win them the election.
And similarly Kasich has expressed frustration with the current state of his party, telling CNN's 'State of the Union' last year:
"I'm still a Republican. I didn't leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left me."
But this is a deflection of personal responsibility, coupled with an erasure the harm his party has created up until this point.
And the Democratic party shouldn't be helping in this process, given Kasich's extreme record.
Perhaps it's relevant that Kasich, unlike most of his Republican peers, acknowledges that Trump has – to put it mildly – gone way too far.
There's a difference between welcoming former Republican voters to the anti-Trump resistance, and rolling out the red carpet for people like Kasich who actively laid the groundwork this awful chapter in American history.