One of the most difficult aspects of governing as President of the United States is being able to bring people together, unite a divided government, and pass an agenda with a broad consensus among the electorate. Some might say it's nearly impossible in this era of polarized politics. Certainly, a candidate who is furthest to the political extremes — or who divides the country with partisan or hateful rhetoric — is not someone who could fulfill that role.
However, Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich has demonstrated that he is someone who could unite us. Throughout this Presidential election cycle, we've all watched candidates on both sides of the aisle air millions worth of negative ads, make hateful statements about large portions of the population, or take political positions that are so far outside the bounds of what is pragmatic and prudent. The presidential debates have become a poor excuse for political discourse. In quite the contrast, Governor Kasich has consistently aired positive ads, stressed his ability to work across the aisle, and preached a hopeful message of lifting up the most vulnerable Americans who have fallen in the shadows.
His life and career furthers that notion. In the 1990s, as Chairman of the House Budget Committee, he worked with a Republican controlled Congress and a Democratic President to balance the budget and create a surplus. Since he was elected governor of Ohio, he's done the same: Kasich turned a $8 billion budget shortfall into a $2 billion surplus, created over 350,000 jobs, and brought Ohio's unemployment rate from 11 percent at the start of the recession to less than 5 percent in 2015.
Meanwhile, Kasich has turned the false notion that "Republicans hate the poor," "slash social programs," or "only protect those who are already well-off" on its head. Instead of stuffing drug offenders in jail, he invested in rehabilitation programs to get them on their feet, and reduced the Ohio recidivism rate to 10 percent. He used federal dollars to expand Medicaid in Ohio in order to protect the working poor by providing them with basic health care instead of having them come into emergency rooms where it costs more, and to treat the mentally ill by giving them their medication rather than keeping them in prisons at the cost of $22,500 each year per person. Finally, he targeted services toward those with the highest rates of unemployment, and lifted up the working poor by softening the barriers (such as the loss of state child care) that poor individuals and families face as they move up the economic ladder. These investments saved lives and families, and in the end, they saved the state of Ohio dollars too.
As Governor of Ohio, Kasich has provided tax credits that stimulated economic growth — and not just to "the 1 percent." He reduced the state's income tax across the board, increased small business deductions for income taxes, boosted personal income tax exemptions for low and middle income earners, and increased the state EITC anti-poverty tax credit. To further his commitment to economic development, Kasich created a non-profit organization called JobsOhio to position the state as a go-to location for economic investment. In Vermont, we could learn quite a bit from Ohio's economic policies and success.
It's no surprise that in Ohio, Kasich is not just well-liked, but well-loved. In 2014, he achieved re-election with a 31-point margin, winning 86 of Ohio's 88 counties. In fact, he currently has a 62 percent approval rating as Governor.
Kasich doesn't pander to the political extremes on the left, or the right. Instead, he is both a pragmatist and an optimist. He seeks out the inherent good in people. As President, John Kasich would be focused on getting things done through working together rather than dividing us through promoting policies that are the furthest to the right or the left. His record speaks to that, both as Governor of a swing state, and as a Republican leader who worked with a Democratic President in the 1990s.
Many Democrats and Independents in Vermont may feel skeptical about asking for a Republican ballot when its time to vote. But when you have the opportunity to vote for someone who cares more about working together and unifying our country than spewing divisive rhetoric, it's well worth it. That's why on Tuesday March 1, I hope you'll join me by voting for Governor John Kasich in the Vermont presidential primary.
Hayden Dublois lives in Manchester. He is an economics student at Middlebury College and a recent graduate of Burr and Burton Academy.