What would be in it for him, anyway?

Mainstream-media entities seriously need to knock it off with the speculation that allegedly moderate Ohio Governor John Kasich will launch an independent challenge to Donald Trump in 2020. Kasich would have to have an IQ lower than Trump’s to do such a thing–and I don’t think the former Fox host is that foolish.

Kasich would find himself under savage rhetorical assault by the conservative-entertainment complex if he tried to launch such an effort. There are millions of Americans who have been brainwashed into viewing Trump as their lord and savior–and if Kasich challenged Trump, the Ohio Governor would be viewed in right-wing circles as an apostate.

What would Kasich’s platform be, anyway? “Compassionate conservatism”? Haven’t we heard that song before? Kinder and gentler tax cuts? Poisoning the environment at a slower pace than Scott Pruitt? Who is Kasich supposed to represent, the “alt-center”? Kasich’s rhetorical resistance to Trump is little more than an effort to burnish his credentials with the mainstream press, which is forever looking for examples of “reasonable Republicans” in order to avoid reporting the inconvenient truth about the full-on radicalism of the modern GOP.

Because of the false doctrine of false balance, the Fourth Estate cannot unequivocally state in news reports what Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein accurately declared five years ago:

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

Mann and Ornstein denounced the mainstream media’s false-balance fetish back then, noting that the Fourth Estate’s failure to acknowledge the radicalism of the GOP was a dereliction of journalistic duty:

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization…We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.

Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?

For years, the press held up John McCain as “proof” that not all Republicans were cray-cray. Kasich obviously lusts for that same mainstream-media glorification. Kasich longs to be a hero to naive Americans who don’t want to believe that our politics are permanently divided, that our differences are more nuanced than they appear. The problem is that Dave Mason’s famous lyrics do not apply to American politics and culture. There are good guys and bad guys. One of the bad guys just got away with it.

Kasich knows damn well that if he ran against Trump, he’d fail miserably. He’s not going to humiliate himself like that. I speculated earlier this year that instead of planning a primary challenge to Trump, Kasich is likely angling to return to cable news as a host. Considering the fondness cable-news executives seem to have for Kasich, he could find himself in a bidding war for his services; only viewers would lose.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.