John Kasich Vs. Bernie Sanders: The 2016 Election That Could Have Been [Opinion]

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Ohio Governor John Kasich will be meeting next week for a debate on healthcare. According to CNN, who will be hosting and televising the debate, the Sanders and Kasich debate will air at 9 p.m. Eastern time.

Both John Kasich and Bernie Sanders ran unsuccessful campaigns to become the 2016 presidential candidates for the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, respectively. It’s tempting to imagine how things might have been different if one or both of these gentlemen had successfully won the nominations they were seeking. According to The Hill, President Donald Trump has seen his approval polling slip to a dismal 36 percent in the latest Quinnipiac University poll released this week. I imagine a significant portion of the 64 percent who disapprove of the job Trump is doing would be relatively content to have either Bernie Sanders or John Kasich sitting in the Oval Office in his place.

Bernie John Kasich debate
John Kasich was a candidate in the 2016 Republican primary. He will debate Bernie Sanders next week. [Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]

And while Hillary Clinton is certainly still favored by a significant portion of true blue Democrats, it’s no secret that her unpopularity with independent voters figured largely in her loss to Donald Trump. According to an MSNBC article from June of 2016, an NBC News poll from that period had Trump and Clinton virtually tied in a general election while Sanders easily beat Trump by 12 points. This is largely because of Bernie Sanders scoring higher approval ratings than Clinton and Trump, both wildly unpopular candidates outside their core group of supporters.

Many Bernie Sanders supporters likewise have a less-than-favorable view of Clinton and her party. For many of them, the behavior of the Clinton campaign and the DNC has turned them completely away from the Democratic Party. According to Washington Examiner, at a recent hearing to decide if a lawsuit against the DNC filed by a group of Bernie Sanders supporters angry about the DNC’s favoritism for Clinton in the 2016 primaries can go forward, the DNC’s attorney Bruce Spiva actually argued that the DNC has no obligation to its voters to hold a fair primary.

“If you had a charity where somebody said, Hey, I’m gonna take this money and use it for a specific purpose, X, and they pocketed it and stole the money, of course that’s different,” Spiva said. “But here, where you have a party that’s saying, We’re gonna, you know, choose our standard bearer, and we’re gonna follow these general rules of the road, which we are voluntarily deciding, we could have — and we could have voluntarily decided that, look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way. That’s not the way it was done. But they could have. And that would have also been their right, and it would drag the Court well into party politics, internal party politics to answer those questions.”

It’s a little harder to imagine a scenario where John Kasich wins the nomination for the Republican Party instead of Donald Trump. According to Salon, an email leaked by WikiLeaks indicates the Clinton campaign feared a candidate like Kasich and colluded with the media to elevate Trump above other candidates. John Kasich is a reasonable person who espouses traditional conservative ideas and has an impressive resume as Ohio’s governor. Trump won because he built a personality cult around himself based on appealing to the nativism and chauvinistic patriotism of a certain segment of the conservative base. Kasich’s calm and collected rationalism was no match for Trump’s hyperbole and histrionic campaign stylings. Donald Trump hypnotized his audience by playing on their emotions and their fears. He promised them a silly wall that played to their fears and told them that he would “drain the swamp,” never informing them that his plan was to fill it with his own muck. John Kasich could only promise sound fiscal conservatism matched with moderate center-right rhetoric. It just wasn’t going to be his year. The rabid right was thirsty for something more. Unfortunately, they got something much, much less.

Bernie Kasich debate
Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the United States.Next week he will debate John Kasich. [Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]

When Bernie Sanders and John Kasich debate next Tuesday, we will hear two very different perspectives regarding what we need to do to fix healthcare in the United States. We will likely hear reasoned and thoughtful disagreements about other policy matters as well. The Kasich and Sanders debate will give us a glimpse of what could have been a very different 2016 election: an election focused on policy rather than empty rhetoric, mudslinging, media manipulation, and transparently false promises.

[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images, Alex Wong/Getty Images]