Kasich the right GOP choice

Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich answers a question during a campaign stop in Atkinson, N.H., Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Americans remain deeply divided on a wide range of public policy issues. But reasonable, realistic people on both sides of that daunting political gap recognize the pressing need for bipartisan solutions to our nation’s problems — and for a president who can advance that indispensable cause.

That makes Ohio Gov. John Kasich the right choice for voters Saturday in South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary.

Unfortunately, our last two presidents have fallen short in their efforts to foster cooperation across party lines in Washington and beyond. Debate persists on how much blame those presidents — and others in their parties — rate for that failure.

But Gov. Kasich’s record clearly recommends him as a proven leader who can push sound conservative principles forward while forging productive compromises with Democrats. He’s also the only candidate in either party whose record includes impressive accomplishments both as a long-term federal legislator and as a second-term governor.

Most experts still regard Gov. Kasich, who had minimal name recognition entering the race, as a long shot.

Yet he gained upward momentum — and crucial attention — last week by finishing second in the New Hampshire primary.

Mr. Kasich served in the U.S. House from 1983-2001. As chairman of the House Budget Committee from 1995-2001, he worked hard — and successfully — for many of the difficult decisions that delivered four consecutive balanced federal budgets.

He stresses the need to reform the nation’s tax system, including well-placed cuts to spur economic activity. He emphasizes the importance of easing excessive regulations, too. And he touts education reform through state and local solutions aimed at job training.

He correctly identifies this fundamental challenge for the U.S. economy if it is ever to regain the growth needed for wide-ranging prosperity: “If you don’t have jobs, you don’t have squat.”

He has acted on that maxim in Ohio, with strong results.

Mr. Kasich also has ample experience on military and foreign policy, having been on the Armed Services Committee for his entire 18-year stint in the House. He expresses justified reluctance at getting involved in civil wars abroad, explaining, “It’s not for us to nation-build.”

But he points out, too, the high priority of “destroying” the Islamic State by developing winning coalitions with allies in Europe and the Middle East.

As he put it in an interview with The Post and Courier on Thursday: “We don’t need to be the policeman of the world, but we have to lead.”

Back on the home front, Gov. Kasich asserts the necessity of border security but also favors “a path to legalization” — though not citizenship — for the 11 million-plus illegal immigrants already in the U.S. Unlike most of his GOP rivals, he has refrained from pandering to the hard-line anti-immigration party base on that hot-button issue.

Also unlike other GOP candidates, Gov. Kasich emphasizes the continuing need to improve race relations. He hails the success of his efforts to assure such progress in Ohio. Among those initiatives are reforming a long-failing public school system in Cleveland, increasing racial diversity across the board in the public sector, addressing serious concerns about how police treat minorities, and boosting entrepreneurial opportunities for people of color.

Gov. Kasich has managed — so far — to stay above the ugly fray that GOP front-runner Donald Trump relentlessly promotes. During a particularly obnoxious attack by Mr. Trump on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at last Saturday night’s debate in Greenville, Mr. Kasich offered this all-too-apt assessment: “This is nuts.”

So is the ongoing phenomenon of Mr. Trump attracting considerable conservative support after not being known as a conservative for nearly all of his public life.

Gov. Kasich says that Mr. Trump’s sustained populist rise as the GOP front-runner stems from Americans being “very aggravated” over “a fundamental insecurity.”

Yet Mr. Kasich sounds an optimistic tone. He points out that compared to the people of so many other nations, we Americans “don’t have it bad.” He adds that we could have it even better if we unite behind practical change. As he said of our economic woes: “We can fix these things, and we will.”

Still, Gov. Kasich also warns that the next president must come in ready to get those repair jobs under way. As he said of the other candidates:

“If they don’t have an agenda and know exactly what they’re going to do, they’re going to get crushed.”

And if Republican primary voters in our state and across the land don’t back the candidate with the best record of turning a truly conservative agenda into overdue change, they’re going to get disappointed — again.

Vote for John Kasich.