So this past week or so I’ve listened to John Kasich’s book while at work. (Oh, yeah, I have the ridiculous fortune of having an incredibly menial job, which means I can pretty much have anything I want coming through my headphones without it impacting my work. I love it. Also, libraries carry audiobooks now and that is just a fabulous advance. Thank you, technology.)
Kasich’s book, titled Two Paths: America Divided or United, is, I guess, like his version of What Happened by Hillary Clinton. Except far less publicized. Also, I feel like it probably has been better received even with its small audience simply because of the nature of the 2016 election,
with all the frustration many have with the democratic party/with Clinton herself, and with the fact that she lost a bigger battle. Kasich lost a nomination; Clinton lost a major and brutal election. But Two Paths goes further into depth on Kasich’s history in politics and his approach to the various campaigns he has run.
Now I don’t normally go around reading Republican memoirs. Actually, I don’t normally go around reading political books at all, though apparently that’s changing (I’m currently about a half hour into Sonya Sotomayor’s My Beloved World.) I keep up to date on the news through web sources and podcasts, but my exposure to deep political theory is admittedly more shallow than I’d like it to be, because until basically the end of 2015, I didn’t give a shit about politics. I didn’t need to. And I only paused to think about who was in charge at all when I needed to be prepared enough to take yet another test (I’ve only ever voted while being in school or just out of it.)
To be honest, I’m surprised that I didn’t stop listening to the book after about 5 minutes. And it’s not like the first 5 minutes are bad or anything. I just usually struggle to get hooked in audiobooks. I can’t tell you how many I’ve borrowed from the library only to return 10 minutes later when I’ve become bored with it for some reason (or, in the case of The Tipping Point, decided that I’d rather read it in print because the material is just too dense for me to passively listen to it while I copy and paste values all day.)
Looking back, the only reason I kept listening was because of the title. The whole reason I considered the book, the whole reason I didn’t hit pause and then walk away, is because the title (to me) indicated a discussion around the topic “we have two ways that we can go as a country. One is this direction, one is that direction. Here’s what I think we should do.” As interested as I am in the question of “why the hell was Donald Trump, with his crude behavior and poor communication tendencies, so appealing to the country?” I am far more interested in figuring out how to move forward productively.
The 2016 election happened. I’m disappointed in the results, I’m disappointed that our president is a twitter fanatic who doesn’t seem to have a grasp of how the government or our economy works. I look at the news and feel sad almost daily– sad for minorities, sad for women, sad for the people who are afraid of the policies for which he advocates. My husband and I have little reason to fear, well, pretty much any action by the government, but it would be a delusion if we ignored how very fortunate we’ve been, and in so many ways.
But I want to hear about how to reconcile from here. I already know much of what bothers the left; now I want to learn about the things that are valued by people like my grandparents and their neighbors. I want to learn about the economic factors that are different for them, in their rural setting, than they are for me, in my urban setting. I want to know what the hell it is that made Johnstown, PA so joyful at Trump’s victory. I want to know what could be done about it.
And after learning these things, I want to learn how to communicate, collaborate, and make a better solution. I don’t think I’m alone with this either. Most people I talk to about politics are interested in finding out how to make peace and progress from here on out. I tend to assume that of most people I don’t talk to as well.
So yeah. I expected Two Paths to be a discussion about these things, which is why I clicked “Borrow”. Instead, Kasich provided a memoir, a reflection on his introduction, ascent towards, and activities in political power.
But I’m not upset about it. It was nice to have a reminder that yes, people are thinking and working on all sides. I remember my grandparents being pleased at the notion of voting for him in the republican primaries, and biased as this is, their endorsement of his governing abilities made me take him more seriously. Perhaps this was part of why I kept listening as I realized that it was going to be more of about Kasich’s story and less about America’s story.
It was also refreshing to hear the words of a Christian republican who seems to understand that Christianity cannot be shoved into the government. I’m so sick of the “Religious Right” tainting Jesus with this uppity sort of “We need to stick our noses into everyone’s moral lives” approach. (Because of course government is absolutely the best tool to use when changing people’s hearts and helping them get to know Jesus, right? (/sarcasm)) Kasich, while he placed much value on his faith, has a story where his faith does not step on the rights and freedoms of others. (I’ll write a post sometime on why I like this approach.)
Additionally, I think I benefited from having exposure to some conservative thought. I’ve been surrounded by liberal doctrine since I started college 5 years ago, but taking steps to fight bias is important. There are times in the past few months where I’ve written off the republican agenda as purely illogical– it is probably healthy to have that mental tendency challenged.
I guess, to sum up, I don’t think the title fully captures the essence of the book. Some titles are very well tailored to their book, such as Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God, which is all about the parable of the prodigal son. This title is not one of them, but I’m glad the book exists.
And, in case he happens to read this for some reason, to Kasich himself, I would say the following:
- The Washington Post described Two Paths, saying “[it] outlines his vision for an America based on tolerance and inclusion, which is expected to draw sharp contrasts with the state of the country under President Trump….. [and] builds upon the themes of Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign”. I want to see more building. Your book quickly convinced me that you put a lot of thought and effort into your work, but it left me wanting at the end for solutions you would offer for reconciliation in our wounded American culture. In the book you mention that you aren’t willing to lie or offer solutions to problems when you can’t follow through– and this is noble, and probably realistic. But as someone with power, I believe you also have a responsibility to find creative (and thoroughly researched) solutions to these problems, or to seek out and defer to the opinions and advice of experts.
- Please, please, please, go read Galatians. And then study it for a year. You devoted a lengthy section of book to your connection to God and to your faith, and I am so glad you have your faith in Jesus, please keep the faith. But in the same chapter, you discuss how your faith is largely about being a good person, and how everyone’s spiritual journey to being a good person is fruitful. (I know I’m paraphrasing, but I did merely listen to the words, instead of reading them on a page, and I don’t have them in front of me to get a direct quote. Sorry about that.) Your doctrine is flawed. Christianity is not about making you a better person, even though at the end you can expect to be more full of love and kindness and generosity and goodness than you could ever hope to be on your own. No, Christianity is not about living the best life you can, it’s about the gospel— that you can’t be good without God’s intervention, and that only in the context of this fact can you begin to grow in a relationship with God and become what God created you for. Do not forget this. This is extremely important.
- I’m sad you weren’t the republican nominee. I disagree with republican ideology, and my mother and I are quite skeptical about your approach towards education policy in Ohio (where she is a teacher and I was a student), but I think it’s safe to say our country would be in a far better place right now if the 2016 republican nomination had gone in a different direction.
- Treat Ohio well. My family lives there.
P.S. I listened to the book at 1.4x speed because OMG that man talks slowly at 1x pace. Or maybe I’m just really used to fast talkers.