Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, Wash., and Republican Gov. John Kasich, Ohio, sound like politicians did only a few years ago: vaguely normal.
Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Inslee responded to the accusation that Democrats lack a message:
“Number one, we’re going to protect and expand health care, not strip it away. ... Second, our message is rescue America — and we will rescue America — from the grasp of an unhinged narcissist who is creating the chaos that [Kasich] just talked about. And that is why so many Republicans and independents and Democrats are banding together in this rescue mission for America. And the third message — and this is very fundamental to the Democratic Party this year. We’re really defining gross domestic product the way it should be. The D in gross domestic product should mean domestic for families.”
The last one, it sounds like, is a pitch for shared prosperity; the idea that you can have a dynamic capitalistic economy but still ensure the middle and lower income American get a greater share of GDP. (Inslee boasted about efforts in his state: "Raised the minimum wage, best family leave policy in America, net neutrality passed, voter rights, expansion of clean energy, expansion of access to college. What do you get? You get 62 cranes in Seattle, the best economy two out of the last three years in America.")
Asked about an issue he'd champion if he ran for president in 2020, Inslee answered:
"Democrats need to make climate change a front-burner issue. It was really interesting, two days ago we had an interesting historical irony.
"It was reported that this last year was the hottest year probably in the history of our species. The very same day, Donald Trump purported to try to repeal the emissions rules that defeat carbon pollution, that help decrease transportation cost to get better mileage, because of his slavish devotion to climate denial.
"Now, we Democrats are the only party that has accepted science because we believe in science and have also embraced this vision of job creation around clean energy. We've shown this in my state where clean energy jobs are going twice as fast as the rest of the economy.
"And this is a job-creation message. Frankly, this does not fit in the presidential discussions yet, and it needs to be, and it's a winning message in governor's races across the country."
Not radical. Not nasty. Not socialism. We can have a reasoned argument over the means (e.g., minimum-wage increases or earned income tax credit), but it is hard to say securing health care, repairing our democracy, trying to reverse severe income inequality and trying to reduce greenhouse gases evidence a left-wing agenda. By contrast, wrecking Obamacare with no alternative in sight, continuing to delegitimize democratic institutions and denying climate science — which the GOP seems to favor — do seem radical.
Kasich doesn't sound like other Republicans these days. He is not excusing Trump's outlandish conduct nor is he pretending there is anything normal about this administration. He explained that "first of all, the chaos that seems to surround Donald Trump has unnerved a lot of people. So suburban women, in particular here, are the ones that are really turned off. " Kasich added, "I was with some women last night who said, hey, you know what, I'm not voting, and they're Republicans, I'm not voting for the Republicans." Well, he's got that right.
Kasich goes on to praise the Republican candidate in Tuesday's special House election because he opposed Trump's inhumane separation policy, opposed tariffs and promised to fix Social Security. Assuming that last one isn't pie-in-the-sky privatization of Social Security, those things sound reasonable, as well. On tariffs, Kasich enunciated the traditional GOP position:
"What they do is they hurt consumers. They hurt businesses in this country. And you can see how people have been reacting to it who are business people that want to get their markets overseas. For farmers, farmers don't want welfare, they want trade. They want to be able to sell their stuff.
“In regard to China, what we need to do with China is to work with our allies to say that this theft of intellectual property cannot stand. The problem is, we’ve made so many of our allies angry, they’re not so reluctant to get in line with us.”
Kasich concluded by chastising Trump for sowing division and praised LeBron James for his civic work.
Imagine these were the two candidates in 2020 — two experienced governors who can talk rationally about the issues. Does anyone think they are who we’ll end up with? Not a chance. And it is a shame, because the two we do wind up with will almost certainly be worse than Inslee and Kasich.
Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post, offering reported opinion from a center-right perspective.