Where John Kasich Is Wrong About Job Preparation

Kasich

In last night’s CNN GOP Town Hall meeting, John Kasich had some advice for young people preparing for the work force.  Here is what he said:

And one final thing: workforce development.  We have got to begin to teach our kids in K through 12 and also in the community college and the four-year schools to be getting an education for a job that exists.  Don’t get educated in a vacuum.  Make sure you know what you want to do, and look for an education that can lead you to a real job.

Kasich could not be more wrong here.  Here was what I tweeted last night:

For a candidate who talks so much about community, moral philosophy, social healing, and what it means to be human, Kasich has bought into the rhetoric of vocational training often associated with advocates of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and politicians such as Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, Barack Obama, and Jeb Bush.

Kasich misses what most career professionals have been saying and writing about for more than a decade.  Namely, many of today’s students will one day work at jobs that do not yet exist. Students–especially college students–are better off training broadly and generally in the liberal arts and the humanities.  This will allow them to obtain the skills needed to adjust and adapt toa  constantly changing marketplace.

My tweet solicited a few responses along these lines:

 

 

 

 

 

John Kasich is the Dallas Willard Candidate

John Kasich Smiling

Some of you who follow The Way of Improvement Leads Home know that I have been writing a lot about what I have called “The Kasich Way.”

I suggested that Kasich is drawing heavily, whether intentionally or not, from the work of James Davidson Hunter in To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.  

But according to Laura Turner at Politico, he is also drawing heavily on the spiritual writings of the late Dallas Willard.

Turner suggests that the Kasich Way is actually hurting the Ohio Governor among evangelicals, many who prefer a Christian culture warrior over a candidate with a positive message of community, human dignity, and spiritual healing. The fact that Kasich’s message is not resonating with evangelicals is an indictment on American evangelicals. He is the most Christian candidate in the race.

I wonder how many evangelicals might change their minds about Kasich if they knew he was channeling Willard, an extremely popular writer in evangelical circles. Willard has authored several classics of evangelical spirituality, including The Divine Conspiracy and The Spirit of the Disciplines.

Here is a taste of Turner’s piece:

There’s good reason to believe, however, that the most religiously driven candidate of all is a man who is remarkably un-theatrical about his beliefs—who even vows, “I don’t go out and try to win a vote by using God. I think that cheapens God.” That would be John Kasich…

If you listen closely to what Kasich has said over the years about religion, you start to see a particular theme: He seems less motivated by specific strictures and “values” than by the broader conviction that eternal life changes our perspective on the temporal. Kasich cites the late University of Southern California philosophy professor Dallas Willard as one of his theological inspirations—an unusual choice because Willard was not always accepted by the Christian establishment. His teaching that the Kingdom of God is available here and now—“eternity is already in session,” he was known to say—follows a school of thought known as spiritual formation, or the idea that with discipline and spiritual development, ordinary Christians can grow to become more like Jesus. “I love to envision the potential impact on society if more and more people in government began to live lives of other-centered love,” Kasich wrote in a tribute book to Willard. “I have hope that I can put practices in my life today that can help me not only now but also in the world yet to come.” Kasich, with his unique mix of left- and right-leaning views, seems to have adopted Willard’s focus on the Kingdom of God as far more important than the Republic of the United States.

Focusing on the world to come makes sense for any Christian believer. But in 2016—an unusually freewheeling, insult-filled race—it might be exactly the wrong belief for a presidential candidate to embrace. At a time when voters are demanding immediate solutions to perceived wrongs, patience and the promise of heaven might not mean much at the voting booth.

That hasn’t stopped Kasich. Recently, a voter at a Georgia town hall asked the governor when would he “live out [his] purpose” by finally punching back at Trump and Rubio. Kasich’s response—perhaps not surprisingly—was a study in temperance: “I don’t know if my purpose is to be president,” he said. “Whether I’m president or whether I am not president, OK, I’m carrying out my mission. Don’t you think?”

Read Turner’s entire piece here.

The Cleveland Quagmire

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This the most succinct and clear explanation of the various scenarios that could play out in the GOP between now and the July convention in Cleveland.  Thanks to Benjamin Ginsburg at Politico for writing it and Brian Franklin of SMU for bringing the piece to my attention:

A taste:

Trump can put all the contested convention talk to rest by securing a majority of delegates before July, and winning Ohio and Florida would go a long way to achieving that. If he doesn’t win both, the talk will continue.

While Trump is the frontrunner, he has won only about 44 percent of the delegates awarded in states that have voted so far. By comparison, Mitt Romney had won 56 percent of the delegates at this point in the 2012 primary; he became the presumptive GOP nominee in mid-April and secured a majority of delegates in late May. If Trump maintains his current rate of 44 percent, he will go into Cleveland with just 1,088 of the 2,472 total delegates—149 short of the 1,237 needed for a majority.

Trump suggested in Thursday night’s debate that the leading candidate, even one shy of a majority, should automatically receive the nomination. But to allow a candidate to be declared the nominee with only a plurality of delegates would require the unprecedented amendment of the existing rules, a feat of rules wizardry as transformative as denying a candidate with a majority the nomination.

Rather than a wholesale rewriting of the rules, the more likely scenario is that if Trump goes into the convention without a majority, he will need to convince enough of the few unbound delegates there to support him. (The unbound delegates consists of those from five states that decided not to hold statewide votes, as well as 54 from Pennsylvania who were directly elected without declaring a presidential preference.) That approach is consistent with the existing rules—but it won’t be easy. In fact, it could lead to convention mayhem.

President Gerald Ford, who went into the 1976 convention without a majority, had to do this to defeat Ronald Reagan. But Trump would be in a tougher spot: In the first presidential roll call vote at the convention, a rule in effect for the first time in 2016 automatically binds more than 90 percent of delegates to specific candidates based on those delegates’ statewide votes. That leaves only a very small pool of delegates that Trump could win over in order to reach a majority on the first ballot: 166 delegates who are already unbound, plus an unknown number whose state laws will unbind them if their candidate drops out by the time of the convention. (There are currently 12 of these delegates, but, importantly, that number will increase if one of the current candidates drops out. For example, should Marco Rubio drop out without winning any additional delegates, 152 delegates would be added to the unbound pool, nearly doubling the number available to Trump’s powers of persuasion to gain a first-ballot majority.)

As things stand now, however, Trump would need to win over a dauntingly high portion of the 166 unbound delegates—nearly 90 percent—in order to get the 149 delegates he would need to reach an overall majority. And many of these unbound delegates are likely to be supporters of candidates Trump has defeated, and could have a less-than-kind view of him.

Read the entire piece here.

Who Are the Evangelicals?

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Everyone (including me!) is trying to make sense of the so-called “evangelicals” who are supporting Donald Trump.  Even The New York Times is curious about this.  They have gathered four evangelical writers to discuss the meaning of the term “evangelical” and how it has been used in this primary season.

For example, Gabriel Salguero, the President and founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, begins his piece this way: “The term evangelical should not be reduced to a political category.” Salguero argues that “evangelical” is a theological category–something akin to the so-called Bebbington Quadrilateral.

Here is a taste:

But while the evangelical vote is not uniform, there are three strong theological tenets that broadly define what evangelicals — across racial, ethnic and political lines — believe: We have a high view of the authority of Scripture, we value sharing our faith (and building it within the community), and believe strongly in salvation through Jesus Christ alone. Our unity is around theological concomitants, not political priorities.

As I have argued before, there seems to be a slight distinction between evangelical voters and “values voters.”  On one level, nearly all evangelicals in the GOP are values voters.  In this election cycle they want voters who are pro-life, support traditional marriage, and defend the right of evangelicals to uphold these views without government interference (They call this “religious liberty”). If any of the GOP candidates were to reverse their positions on any of these issues, I think it is fair to say that they would not garner much evangelical support.

Evangelicals who think these values are non-negotiable make up a large subset of the Republican Party.  But within that subset, evangelical voters might prioritize different things.

Some evangelicals support Trump because of his business savvy, his anti-immigration and anti-Muslim positions, his economic plan (is there one?), or his tough talk on foreign policy.

Other evangelicals support Ted Cruz because the Texas Senator believes in limited government, defends the Constitution, is pro-Israel, or gives high priority in his stump speech to the replacement of Antonin Scalia.

More moderate evangelicals support John Kasich because they like his positive campaign and his compassionate conservatism informed by his Christian faith.

Some evangelicals might like Rubio because he is willing to stand up to Donald Trump.

I think the media is just starting to make sense of these differences among evangelicals. Some members of the media may be starting to realize that the paradigm they have used to understand evangelical voting habits is outdated.

When Jimmy Carter ran for POTUS in 1976 and told the nation that he was a “born-again Christian,” journalists had no idea what that meant.  When Newsweek declared that 1976 was “The Year of the Evangelical,” the magazine almost seemed to suggest that it had uncovered some strange creature from another planet.  And then Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority came along and turned conservative evangelicals into one or two issue- voters (abortion always being one of those issues).

Until this year, members of the media and political pundits who know a lot about politics but little about religion, have found this old narrative useful.  But with the arrival of Trump as a candidate who has managed to attract large numbers of “evangelical” voters, this narrative has become much more complicated.

Pundits and experts are no longer thinking about evangelicals as a monolithic voting bloc. They are now trying to dig deeper, analyzing evangelicals in terms of church attendance (or non-church attendance), class, and even race.  (I see the phrase “white evangelical” used in this election cycle more than I have in the past).

Stay tuned.  I am not done with this New York Times forum.

Post-Super Tuesday Thoughts: Little Has Changed

Last night both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump moved closer to winning the nomination of their respective parties. They both racked-up large numbers of delegates.

But for those of us who have been following this election closely, it will feel like little has changed when we wake up on Wednesday morning.

Trump will continue to hold large rallies and say controversial things about Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and immigrants.  Last night he compared Marco Rubio’s attacks on him to the comedy of Don Rickles.  Reports are surfacing that Sheckey Green and Buddy Hackett (despite the fact that he died in 2003) are offended by this comparison.

Ivanka will have her baby and Donald will figure out some way to use the birth of his grandchild to endear himself to voters.

Chris Christie, who is now playing Ed McMahon to Trump’s Johnny Carson, will wonder what has happened to his political career as he travels around the country and gives speeches on Trump’s behalf. Christie will look back and realize that his career may have peaked at this moment:

The KKK accusations will not go away. This exchange between Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord and CNN commentator Van Jones will not help matters:

Ted Cruz will claim that his victories in Texas and Oklahoma must be interpreted as evidence that he deserves the nomination.  Though he can no longer say that he is the only Republican to have beaten Donald Trump (see comments on Marco Rubio below), this will not stop him.  Instead he will announce that he is the only candidate who has defeated Trump more than once.  He will hammer Trump and urge Rubio, Carson, and Kasich to leave the race and unite around him.

Rubio’s win in Minnesota means that he can finally claim to have defeated Trump in a presidential primary.  He will spend the week reminding Ted Cruz of this fact and, with the Florida primary coming up, will ramp-up his assault on Trump. The comedy act is not over.  Or perhaps it is a tragedy.

Ben Carson should quit.  If he does not, he will be in danger of damaging his reputation among evangelicals.  His book sales will decline. People will wonder if his hands are as gifted as they once were.  (There is a rumor circulating that GOP officials will approach Carson today and ask him to drop out of the race and run for Senator in his home state of Florida).

I am sure John Kasich will try to get as much mileage as possible out of his strong showing in Vermont.  He will hang around until the Ohio primary and try to stay above the fray. He will still be a breath of fresh air.

The Democratic race will intensify.  Bernie did well enough last night to sustain the “revolution.” More money will flow into his campaign.  Sunday night’s debate should be a good one.

Meanwhile, the “kinder and gentler” Hillary Clinton–the candidate who throws out fake John Wesley quotes–will keep citing 1 Corinthians 13 and talk about loving one another.

As Kasich would say: “fasten your seatbelts.”

How Evangelicals Voted in South Carolina

Trump Cruz RubioOver at Religion News Service, Tobin Grant has a nice post about the way South Carolina evangelicals voted in Saturday night’s primary.

It is worth noting that Cruz did not win a single county.  The Texas Senator lost to Trump in the heavily evangelical counties in the Upstate.

Here is a taste:

The geography of the South Carolina primary fits the story coming out of the exit polls. Rubio did well among Republicans who want a candidate who can win. Trump voters want someone who can shake up Washington and “tell it like it is.” Cruz needs to secure most (if not all) of the evangelical and values-voters. He’s leading among these voters, but many of them are backing Rubio and Trump instead. 

So here is my take:

I think evangelicals in South Carolina are all “values voters” in the sense that they want a candidate who is pro-life on abortion, “protects” (to use Trump’s term) Christianity, and believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.  It seems like these things are non-negotiable.  Since all of the GOP candidates still alive in the race fit the bill here (or at least claim to fit the bill), they need to be distinguished in other ways.

Many self-proclaimed evangelicals are supporting Trump for economic and cultural reasons.  Economically, they believe, like Jerry Falwell Jr., that Trump’s business background will help him “make America great again.”  But they also like the fact that Trump wants to deport immigrants, sees Islam as a threat, and stands against political correctness.  The position of South Carolina evangelicals on all of these issues is often informed by their understanding of Christianity.

Cruz seems to be attracting more traditional, 1980s Moral Majority style, evangelical values voters. They are concerned about the economy, religion, immigration, and Islam, but these things take second place to issues such as abortion and traditional marriage. They are much more sensitive to the makeup of the future Supreme Court than the people voting for Trump.

Rubio continues to attract evangelicals who are politically conservative and evangelically moderate (in terms of how they apply their faith to politics).  As Grant notes in his article, these are the evangelicals who think Rubio has the best chance to win in November.

I think Jeb Bush’s votes will be split between Rubio and Kasich.  If Carson get’s out of the race, the doctor’s votes will be split between Rubio, Kasich, and Cruz.

 

My Column at *USA Today*: Evangelicals Are the Prize in South Carolina

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I am told that this piece will be in the print edition of USA Today later this week, but in the meantime, you can read “Evangelicals are the prize in S.C.” online at usatoday.com

Regular readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home will find little new here.  I have been writing about these themes for the last several months.

Here is a taste:

…Whatever evangelical votes Kasich wins in South Carolina and beyond will be votes taken away from Rubio. The Florida senator has put together a religious liberty advisory board made up of scholars and religious leaders from the evangelical thinking class. This suggests that he is targeting suburban evangelicals who normally avoid Pentecostal prayer meetings and change the channel when televangelists show up on their big screens. They read religious opinion pieces in The Wall Street Journal and subscribe to Christianity Today.

These are evangelicals who send their kids to schools like Wheaton College (the alma mater of Eric Teetsel, Rubio’s Director of Faith Outreach) or Moody Bible Institute or even Liberty University (despite Jerry Falwell Jr.’s endorsement of Trump). In South Carolina they relate more to the warm-hearted piety of Columbia International University (formerly Columbia Bible College) than the militant fundamentalism of Bob Jones University. These evangelicals attend churches with pastors who have seminary degrees from places like Fuller Theological Seminary,Dallas Theological Seminary, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Southern Seminary, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Read the entire column here.

The Kasich Way

Here is John Kasich’s closing statement in last night’s CBS GOP debate.

I got an e-mail last night from a political editor at a national newspaper in which he/she called Kasich’s closing remarks a “naked pitch to evangelicals.” This editor is correct.  But it is a very different “pitch to evangelicals” than the appeals the other evangelicals running for president are making.

Kasich’s theology of politics comes from a slightly different place than the religious sensibilities informing the Cruz, Rubio, and Carson campaigns.  Kasich doesn’t tout his evangelical credentials or talk about his conversion experience or claim (at least not yet) that he wants to restore America to a Christian nation.

Kasich’s campaign seems to focus on the idea that we are created and called for community.  His remarks about people being “special” seem to reflect the Judeo-Christian idea that human beings have dignity and worth because they are created in God’s image. If God created everyone “special,” then this belief should be the basis of neighborliness and local community.

I also picked up a bit of the Catholic idea of subsidiarity in his comments about the way problems should be solved locally.

Kasich’s remarks early in the debate urging Obama not to appoint a replacement for Scalia sound like he doesn’t respect the constitutional process.  Maybe he doesn’t.  Maybe he is simply putting politics over the constitutional appointment of a new justice in the same way that everyone else is doing.   Here is what he said:

If you listen carefully, you hear Kasich the healer coming out in these remarks.  The reason he does not want Barack Obama to appoint a new justice is because he does not want to see more political fighting and acrimony in a country that is already eeply divided. Again, maybe this is just a shrewd and politically savvy way to frame this issue.  But in framing it this way Kasich separates himself from the raw politicization of this issue that we are seeing from Cruz and Rubio.

Does Kasich Have a Chance in South Carolina?

Kasich

I don’t know much about the reliability of polls, but I did find it interesting that a poll from the American Research Group has John Kasich in second place right now in South Carolina. He is one point ahead of Rubio and three points ahead of Ted Cruz.

Does anyone know if American Research Group is a legitimate poll?  In most other polls, Kasich is well behind Trump, Rubio, Cruz, and Bush.

Should the Kasich camp should invest a bit more in South Carolina instead of putting all their eggs in the basket of the Midwestern primaries?

 

The Nostalgia of John Kasich

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In his speech after the New Hampshire primary, Ohio governor John Kasich became nostalgic for an older America—the America of his mailman father who was one of many workers responsible for the fabric of face-to-face community in the small western Pennsylvania town of McKees Rocks.. He called for a more compassionate, empathetic, and caring America—a place where people sit on their front porches, give each other hugs, and love their neighbors.

Kasich reminds us that nostalgia is a powerful thing.  It can make us long for lost worlds.  The Ohio governor’s small town-upbringing may have been idyllic, but historians know that not everyone growing up in 1950s America can relate to this kind of childhood.  The history of the 1950s, as opposed to nostalgia for the 1950s, is much more complicated and complex, dark and oppressive, for those who were not fortunate enough to participate in Kasich’s safe, white-working class world.

Nostalgia is so powerful because it usually contains kernels of truth.  Neighborliness and the strengthening of the bonds of local community are good things.  So is the American Dream that Bernie Sanders preaches.  So are the ideals of political liberty that our founding fathers held so dear.  So is limited government.  All of these things will make us a better society.

But invoking the past to get us there will always be problematic because for every western Pennsylvania working class neighborhood there was a black neighborhood in Alabama dealing with segregation; and for every family who experienced the American Dream there was another family who did not. For all of the virtues of the Reagan era that the GOP presidential candidates love to extol, there was also Iran-Contra, the cutting of social programs, and the raising of taxes in 1983. For every founder who defended liberty, there was another caught up in the ugly legacy of slavery.  And let’s not forget that early 20th century progressives had a horrible track record on race and immigration.  Just ask Princeton University as they wrestle with the legacy of Woodrow Wilson.

This is the difference between history and nostalgia. But I don’t see our political candidates learning this lesson anytime soon.  Let’s face it, nostalgia works much better than history for those with the primary goal of getting elected.

John Kasich Is Offereing a Message That Evangelical Voters Should Embrace

John Kasich is a breath of fresh air.  He has found his voice in this primary season.

While Cruz and Rubio continue to come across as culture warriors, Kasich is an evangelical Anglican with a message defined by compassion, neighborliness, empathy, and local attachments.  When I heard him give his speech last night I thought about the University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter’s book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World and his concept of “faithful presence.”

As I have said before, Kasich is using his Christian faith in a subtle way.  It informs his sense of human flourishing and his care for the vulnerable members of the society.  He is pro-life.  He connects job growth to strong families.  Is he nostalgic for a world that we will never get back?  Probably.  But “slowing down”and social “healing” can also be seen as counter-cultural ideas in our society today.

If this guy doesn’t win the evangelical vote going forward the problem is with evangelicalism, not Kasich or his message.

If Kasich Finishes Second Tonight…

KasichIt is still early, but there seems to be a good chance that John Kasich will finish second tonight in New Hampshire.

The pundits are saying that the Ohio governor has no chance in South Carolina.  Trump is the favorite there.  They are saying that Cruz will do well against evangelicals.  Jeb is doing well there as well.

But Kasich can do well in South Carolina if he talks about his Christian faith. I have heard Kasich talk about how his faith informs his policies–especially in terms of support for the poor and vulnerable in society.  I don’t know how many evangelical Anglicans are in South Carolina, but I think Kasich will be able to take his momentum from New Hampshire and draw some of the educated evangelical vote away from Rubio.