The Kasich Litmus Test for 2016

Amidst all the talk about a split between the Republican establishment and the Tea Party, there is still some underlying unity–at least if Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal editorial page, a reliable barometer of GOP elite opinion, is any indication. The Journal takes Ohio Gov. John Kasich to task for defying his fellow Republicans and the legislature in his effort to drag the state into Obamacare’s expanded Medicaid funding.

Kasich’s justification is classic leftist jargon, tinged with the quasi-religious self-righteousness that liberals so easily graft while resisting most forms of sincere public religious expression: 

“When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor,” to quote one of his favorite lines.

Some establishment-minded Republicans like to cite Gov. Kasich–who is currently very popular among Ohio voters in general–as an example that other Republicans should follow, and a possible presidential contender in 2016. So the Journal‘s dissent is particularly refreshing. Not only is Kasich substantively wrong on the policy issue, but his procedural lawlessness echoes that of President Barack Obama himself.

Among the many litmus tests that primary voters in both parties try to apply in the presidential primaries, there really is only one that matters for Republicans in 2016: resistance to Obamacare. While governors are generally preferable to U.S. Senators as candidates, no governor who accepted the Obamacare funds should be acceptable to the Republican party as the nominee in 2016. That includes Kasich, among others.

The Kasich litmus test exposes those who sacrifice principles for power, and end up with neither. It might be said in Kasich’s defense that he tried the Tea Party way in 2011, pushing through labor reforms that were later repealed. But Kasich showed none of the shrewdness of Scott Walker in Wisconsin, who exempted public safety workers. That’s the kind of balance between politics and principle the GOP needs in its leaders.