One of the most conservative governors in the country is suddenly — and without much merit — finding himself labeled as a shining example of centrist cooperation.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed on Thursday paints Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich as an increasingly moderate conservative, citing as evidence his push to implement the medicaid expansion provision of Obamacare (a bill he opposed and continues to campaign against), diverting more spending to social programs like food stamps, and resisting calls to go after unions by pursuing right-to-work legislation.
At the same time, Mr. Kasich has stirred strong opposition from tea-party leaders—and won surprised approval from liberals—by pushing to expand Medicaid coverage to nearly 300,000 additional Ohioans, adopting a provision of the Obama health-care overhaul that he has taken to defending with an openly religious fervor.
The former congressional spending hawk has steered millions more dollars into local food banks, forced insurance companies to provide coverage for children with autism and signed legislation to make it easier for recently released felons to clear their names and find jobs.
But Kasich’s supposed new-found moderation does not square with the tax plan he is aggressively pursuing. While some progressives have applauded him for increasing aid to the poor while his Republican colleagues seek to cut or entirely eliminate federal food stamps, the Kasich tax plan, which centers around a plan to cut the state income tax, would effectively slash taxes for the wealthiest Ohioans and increase them for the state’s poor and middle class. Including a few minor concessions to appease Democratic lawmakers — concessions that, unlike the state tax law, can be undone easily by the Republican-controlled legislature — does not constitute a shift to the center.
The fact that Kasich warranted a rebranding as a “moderate” by the Wall Street Journal says less about his governorship and more about his party, which continues stray further from the mainstream by attacking women, minorities, the middle class and the poor. And commentators who are buying into the Kasich-as-moderate routine are themselves performing some mental jiu jitsu to look past his recent signature of one of the nation’s most restrictive anti-choice bills in June that is threatening to close the largest abortion clinic in the state, and bills that have made it harder for voters — particularly minorities and other key Democratic constituencies — to cast their ballots.