Kasich urges students to bridge the partisan divide

By EMILY MCDONALD | November 16, 2017


LAUREN QUESTELL/PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR As part of the Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium (MSE) 2017 speaker series, Ohio Governor John Kasich spoke to students in Hodson on Monday, Nov. 13.

Ohio Governor John Kasich gave a talk titled “Two Paths: America United or Divided” as part of the Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium (MSE) on Monday.

Kasich was elected governor of Ohio in 2011 after serving nine terms as a member of the United States House of Representatives. He was the final candidate to drop out of the race against Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination last year.

During his talk, Kasich discussed the role of young voters in national politics, respect for people with opposing views and the importance of bridging the partisan divide.

In response to Kasich’s visit, Students from Voice for Choice, a group advocating for women’s reproductive rights, and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) stood outside the event before it began to hand out flyers with information on his policies, mostly regarding his views on abortion. The flyer ended with the phrase “This man is not your friend.”

During his presidential campaign, many branded Kasich as a moderate because of his more centrist stances on issues like trade, environmental legislation and immigration. In his remarks he refuted this label.

“I’m not actually a moderate,” he said. “I’m a conservative, and it doesn’t matter what other people label me — it matters what I label me.”

Kasich said that he hoped to overcome some of the partisan divisions that have recently surfaced in America’s politics.

“I demand that we move away from this really wicked partisanship that we’re seeing,” he said. “I’m a Republican, and I’ve always said the party is my vehicle and not my master.”

For Kasich, public officials should serve the interests of their constituents rather than their party.

“We talk a lot about politics today — about how dysfunctional it is, and how everyone’s yelling at everybody, and how nothing can get done,” he said. “If you’re in politics, are you worshiping your party, or do you want to serve the public good?”

He said that partisan fights prevented politicians from making legislative change. Kasich called for more unity in both the Republican and Democratic parties. 

“If they do not become clearer with their values and their vision and their view of our country, you’re not going to join either party,” he said. “They’re going to have to get their acts together because you’re up for grabs.”

It is difficult to win elections by appealing only to one party’s base, according to Kasich. He emphasized the importance of reaching out to people from both the Democratic and Republican Parties when campaigning. 

“You can take people with very disparate opinions, and if you sit them down under goodwill, you can work something out,” he said.

Kasich said that he believed in overcoming partisan divides both as a politician and as a person of faith.

“The second greatest commandment is love your neighbor as you want your neighbor to love you,” he said. “We have a lot of gnashing of teeth today and a lot of nastiness and disrespect and viciousness and breakdowns because we aren’t paying attention to that anymore.”

He also addressed the role of young people in politics today. He noted that in the 2018 elections, the number of voting Millennials would equal Baby Boomers for the first time in history. 

According to Kasich, young people have been at the forefront of politics since the 1960s, when demonstrations and protests on college campuses helped end U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He stressed the importance of voting as a means of bringing about change.

“You are comfortable in the global environment, you realize that something on one side of the world affects us over here, and that’s exciting. I think there’s an excitement and a newness and an innovation connected to your generation, but you have to go out and vote,” he said. 

Senior Marisa Brand agreed that it is important to bridge partisan divides between people with contrasting political views.

“It definitely went along with the values that MSE promotes,” she said. “Politics doesn’t have to be so polarized, and there are ways that we can approach politics that find areas where we all agree in order to reach the greater good.”

Brand said that she supported Kasich in 2016 and worked on his campaign. She explained Kasich’s appeal to her during the election.

“He was a civil, pragmatic person who could have an actual debate about policy. He didn’t scream at the other people,” she said.  “Whatever he promoted in any of his policies, he went point by point explaining the benefits of it, and if another candidate questioned him on it he would then respond to them.”

She added that Kasich allowed his opinions and positions to change during debates with his opponents. Additionally, she addressed his image as a moderate Republican.

“He is a conservative, but I felt like his views were more moderate, especially on social issues,” she said. “On certain social issues, he had more moderate views than some of the other people running.”

According to Brand, Kasich was open to criticism and questions from students and answered them well, telling one student with an especially specific question to contact his staff for more information.

Sophomore Devanshu Singh said that the way Kasich responded to student questions was disappointing.

“I don’t think he took the talk as seriously as he should’ve done, and I also think he was cutting off people when they were asking questions,” Singh said. “He should’ve respected the forum more by preparing for it a little bit better and letting students ask questions.”

Singh addressed ways to bridge partisanship in politics today, saying that social media was especially important.

“One small thing that everyone could do is not make political comments on Facebook,” he said. “When you do that, you get in your own head, because you usually have friends that have the same political opinions, and they agree with you, and then you think that you’re right because you get all this positive affirmation.”

Freshman Athena Czerwinski Burkard attended because she was interested in hearing more about Kasich’s stance on abortion.

“I’m very pro-choice. I’m in Voice for Choice, and I was waiting to see what his answers would be about him being pro-life,” she said. “I wasn’t surprised.”

Czerwinski Burkard agreed with Kasich’s statement about appealing to both Democratic and Republican voters. 

“One of the things that Kasich did mention was having people who are on opposite sides of a position come sit at the same table and talk about it, and that’s more meaningful discourse than fighting over the internet about it,” she said.

Senior Aleena Nasir, who is from Ohio, said that the talk affected her opinion of Kasich.

“I had a very mild and different image of him before this talk and before hearing him speak in person. It was surprising how he handled a lot of the student’s questions. A bit disappointing,” Nasir said. “I respect his positions on the issues, but I wish he would’ve answered the questions in their entirety.” 

Nasir is the vice president of IDEAL, a non-partisan political discussion group on campus. She believes that it is important to bridge the partisan divide in politics today.

“There are forums on campus everywhere to have non-partisan discussions and to reach across the aisle or across the ideological spectrum to talk to people who don’t share your opinions,” she said. “It’s really easy, especially on college campuses, to be within your own bubble and to be with people who share your opinions.” 

She added that it was also important to be respectful of other people’s opinions.

“Recognize that they’re coming from a certain place of validity, and just try to convey your opinions without being as harsh and violent as possible,” she said. 

In an email to The News-Letter, MSE wrote that in inviting Kasich they wanted to provide a forum for people with different perspectives to engage in discussion.

“We were very pleased with the turnout and enthusiasm for Governor Kasich,” they wrote. “We strive to bring a diversity of viewpoints to campus and feel successful in cultivating conversations among differing ideologies at the event.”

Before the event, several students, some of whom were members of SDS, stood outside the event and passed out fliers with information on Kasich’s policies and legislative actions as Governor of Ohio.

Several members of SDS said that they were asked to stop by a Maryland State Trooper and threatened with arrest when they questioned what laws they were breaking when distributing the flyers.

One of those students was senior Miranda Bachman. Bachman is a member of Voice for Choice, a group promoting reproductive rights for women, which hosted a discussion on abortion after Kasich’s talk.

“We were having this event after the Kasich speech, so in partnership with SDS we decided to make flyers about some of Kasich’s — in our opinion — bad policies and hand them out to people in line,” she said. “MSE has a policy of accepting dissent and accepting people who are flyering in the past.”

Bachman said that their goal in passing out the flyers was to counter the narrative that Kasich is a moderate.

“His policies are just staunchly conservative,” she said. “Students, people who are voters, really have a responsibility to know who they’re voting for and who they’re supporting.”

She said that they were passing out flyers politely when a man in a suit approached them and asked them to move across the room. According to Bachman, he threatened to arrest them when they refused to move, and they questioned what laws they were breaking.

Bachman said that the man told them they were blocking the stairs and the elevator, though they stood “20 feet from the elevator” and were not blocking the stairs.

Eventually they decided to move, Bachman said.

She said that MSE has a reputation of promoting the free exchange of ideas.

“MSE purports to support free speech - especially during other controversies such as the Dershowitz incident - but their behavior during this event is contrary to their supported values,” Bachman said.

According to MSE, they are working with students and faculty to investigate the incident. They wrote that peaceful protests are welcomed at MSE events.

“Per our mission, we strongly support the free exchange of ideas, including those that contradict our speakers,” they wrote. “We have experienced protests before, and as long as they are peaceful no issues should arise.”

They addressed allegations from some SDS members that MSE sent a Maryland State Trooper to ask the protesters to move.

“To be clear, no chair orchestrated any threat nor was aware of it until students begun posting on social media about it,” they wrote. “We have reached out to the students who have spoken out and hope to figure out exactly what happened soon.”

Alyssa Wooden contributed reporting.

Editor’s Note: The online version of this article has an edited quote to clarify what the speaker said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Aleena Nasir supported Kasich during the 2016 election. She was actually a Hillary supporter. The News-Letter regrets this error. 

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