The next president of the United States will inherit enormous challenges at home and abroad.
Perhaps the most significant of those challenges will be to counter the prevailing sense that Americans are hopelessly, eternally divided. The nation’s 45th president must find a way to bridge the seemingly unbridgeable gap that separates left and right and prevents the nation from adequately addressing ways to improve the lives of and expand opportunities for every American.
Missourians will have a meaningful voice in this extraordinary political season as they join millions of Americans who’ll be voting in primary elections on Tuesday.
Despite the caustic atmosphere that has defined much of the presidential campaign so far — or perhaps because of it — we believe the current candidates in each party best equipped to face those challenges are Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John Kasich.
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She brings the most stellar resume of any candidate in either party.
Clinton served eight years in the U.S. Senate, where she gained a reputation for digging deep into issues and policy. After Barack Obama took office in 2009 he tapped Clinton, his primary opponent, to be his secretary of state. She represented the nation admirably in that capacity and honed invaluable foreign policy experience.
As a former first lady, Clinton understands the demands and pitfalls of the presidency. Her attempt during her husband’s first term to reform the U.S. health care system, though hugely unsuccessful, gives her a thorough understanding of a complex topic that will continue to be front and center in the next presidency.
Clinton’s long career in public service is not without blemishes. Questions remain about her use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state. Critics cite that and some of her votes in the Senate as raising “trust” issues. And she can put voters off with a “smartest kid in the class” attitude.
Partly because of that baggage, she is receiving an unexpectedly strong challenge from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Sanders has commanded large crowds and fierce loyalty from Americans who are drawn to his passionate call for a fairer and more equitable America. By keeping issues such as universal health care, affordable college educations and a fairer tax structure front and center, Sanders has elevated the Democratic race.
But Sanders comes with flaws that prospective GOP opponents would surely exploit. For starters, he is a self-described democratic socialist in a nation that has been trending right of center.
And he has not presented a convincing argument that he could be effective in the White House. Calling for a political revolution, as Sanders does repeatedly, is not the same as presenting a plan. Clinton’s contention that she is the candidate who can best get things done seems legitimate.
Clinton has not yet exhibited Sanders’ ability to rally huge crowds or draw large numbers of young voters to her cause. And unfortunately her lifelong advocacy on behalf of children, families and disenfranchised Americans has been overshadowed by other issues.
But Clinton’s confession in the Miami debate last week that she was “not a natural politician” can be seen as a breakthrough moment for the candidate, a bit of humility that helps to counter charges of inauthenticity and put her sometimes awkward wonkishness in perspective.
He has been rightly called the only adult in the room during the theatrical series of Republican debates. Kasich, the governor of Ohio, remains a spoiler among the GOP’s presidential candidates.
Voters are increasingly responding to his moderate-sounding voice; his attempt to address real issues rather than join the personality snipers in the gutter; and his apparent willingness to fix the broken spirit of bipartisanship that has crippled Washington D.C.
For those qualities alone, we believe he is the best of the Republican candidates, one who offers his party some healing qualities that it is sorely in need of. A vote for Kasich may also be a vote for a deadlocked or brokered Republican convention, and we see that as a positive outcome based on the alternatives.
Some voters, of course, want nothing other than to blow up the party and blow up the federal government, and so their support for the most divisive of the GOP candidates is unsurprising. Their zeal ignores the reckless promises that both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have brought to the campaign.
Trump in particular has cultivated ugliness and even violence at his rallies. His threats against immigrants, refugees and persons of the Muslim faith run contrary to America’s founding principles.
As for Marco Rubio, some early promise that he could be a serious conservative alternative to the current leading candidates has dissipated as his immaturity and questionable record have become more clear.
Kasich certainly has his own baggage for voters to consider. We have deep concerns about his anti-abortion record, which includes signing a bill this year to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio, as well as his anti-union stance and support for tax cuts favoring the wealthy.
In his favor, though, Kasich expanded Medicaid eligibility in Ohio, and he favors improving the Affordable Care Act as opposed to repealing it. That’s a refreshing change for a Republican politician. He also is bold enough to say that he would support a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants.
Those stands run counter to many in the Republican base who are being courted by the other remaining candidates. But they reflect the mind not of an ideologue but of a pragmatic politician willing to seek compromise as he works toward the conservative principles he espouses.
Republicans seeking a refuge from the extremist nonsense that has defined their side’s presidential campaign can find what they are really looking for in the Kasich candidacy.