Kasich Didn't Even Deliver Ohio. Why Should Biden Take His Advice? | Opinion

Last Thursday, after it became clear Joe Biden would be America's next president, a source close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered Axios an outline of "acceptable" Biden Cabinet nominees. On Sunday, former Ohio Governor and Biden surrogate John Kasich urged Democrats to "make it clear to the far-left that they almost cost [Biden] this election."

Far from conceding loss and reflecting on the root causes of America's sweeping popular and electoral vote rejection of Donald Trump's GOP, Republicans are behaving like they won last Tuesday's election. It will be on President Biden to bring the headless Republican Party back to reality.

He can start by tossing unsolicited "advice" from the same people who have dedicated their careers to defeating and undermining Democratic policy. That includes Kasich, who failed to move Ohio into Biden's winning coalition while condescending to the grassroots progressive activists who delivered crucial victories for Biden in Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, Arizona, and even ruby-red Georgia.

Rejected by a nearly 5 million vote margin and hamstrung by a president unwilling to face defeat with even a drop of humility, national Republicans are already at work rationalizing their loss. By treating the 2020 election only as a referendum on Donald Trump, opportunists like Kasich can claim voters weren't actually rejecting Republicanism—just its bigoted, unhinged spokesman.

That kind of cherrypicking is rapidly becoming the safety blanket under which a chastened GOP is hiding from reality.

"The presidential race was more a referendum on a person," Senator Mitt Romney told NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday. Romney framed the loss of the White House as an isolated incident in a night of clear conservative victory. "When it comes to policy we did pretty well!"

It's clear Trump's landslide electoral loss has traumatized the GOP, but that doesn't mean anyone on the left should humor the dangerous Republican delusion that they lost the election but won the intellectual debate. Even in states that went for Trump, progressivism surged forward: Florida passed a $15 minimum wage, while four states including Montana and South Dakota legalized marijuana.

Moreover, trying to unscramble the GOP/Trump omelette in the aftermath of a lost election is a bit rich, considering the party went onto its election brandishing loyalty to Trump as the sole and only plank of its platform. As much as Romney may cringe to think it, a rejection of Trump is a rejection of Republican "policy" for the simple reason that for four long years the GOP has had no coherent policies except the protection and enactment of Trumpism.

These policies were also on the ballot, like it or not. And they were all turned down. The inhumane and illegal separation of immigrant families that has left 666 children with no idea if they will ever again see their parents? That policy was rejected on November 3, along with the toxic men and women who forced it on the country. The terrorizing of Muslims and the LGBTQ community through targeted executive orders? The purposeful inaction on gun violence and systemic racism? The use of police as personal stormtroopers in the president's war on peaceful protest? All rejected and soon to be erased.

Given the scope of their defeat, Republicans ought to be asking what they can do to restore their credibility with the American people. Instead, they're offering dictates on who Joe Biden should appoint to the Cabinet and what policy issues are "off limits" to the new Democratic administration.

They also understand Democrats' and particularly Biden's weakness for the mirage of bipartisanship in a polarized and battle-torn Washington. But the offer is exactly that: a mirage designed to send Democrats further into the political desert. If Joe Biden wants to be the transformative president he envisions in his now realized dream of the presidency, he must give Republicans the space to be heard—while making clear he will not be looking for staffing or policy advice from fresh from a fire sale of its longstanding values, in exchange of unquestioning obeisance to Trump.

Joe Biden built a diverse, winning national coalition precisely because he trusted the instincts of state organizers like Stacey Abrams in Georgia and groups like Voto Latino in Arizona. Meanwhile, 93 percent of Republicans supported Trump this cycle, an increase from 2016 despite the big promises of Kasich and the Never Trumpers. Biden's administration must reflect the renewed and energized Democratic spirit that elected him by putting forward progressive nominees his administration is willing to fight for against unprecedented Senate opposition.

It's no coincidence that Republicans who are 'just trying to help' all offer policy solutions straight out of the GOP playbook. Reject the left. Distance yourself from those noisy activists. Throw in a little fiscal conservatism. Don't bring up the police, or race, or poverty, or the tens of millions of Americans out of work due to COVID-19. This is an old and effective trap, and it is designed only to waste Democrats' time at a critical moment in American history.

Folks like John Kasich and Mitt Romney aren't interested in helping the Democratic Party build a strong, effective government. They're looking to hobble any and all attempts to reverse the disastrous effects of their years in power, which in due course they will use to portray the Democrats as incompetent and ineffective leaders.

If Biden ignores GOP distractions and stands with the progressives who realized his dream of the presidency, he can count on a mobilized and energized Democratic base to advance his policy agenda in cities and states across the country. That grassroots momentum defines the kind transformative presidency Biden wants. It's also exactly what a post-Trump America needs.

Max Burns is a veteran Democratic strategist and founder of Third Degree Strategies.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own