COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. John Kasich’s new book, “Two Paths: America Divided or United,” provides a rare, and sometimes raw, behind-the-scenes look at being a 2016 presidential candidate.
The book, released Tuesday by Thomas Dunne Books, is roughly equal parts campaign-trail memoir, political biography and Kasich’s own self-help therapy session for living in a post-Donald Trump world.
Kasich, 64, expresses clear disappointment that his decades as a state legislator, congressman, business executive and governor failed to earn him the Republican Party’s nomination — especially over populist billionaire Donald Trump.
Competing in the crowded and fractious field felt at times like “walking up a down elevator,” he wrote.
“I was astounded that politicians could say the kinds of things they were saying — crass, negative — and get away with it,” Kasich said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press. “I think everybody who has observed politics was stunned by it.”
Yet, in an open letter to his twin 17-year-old daughters that concludes the book, Kasich urges them not to be disheartened but to “expect more” of future candidates. He sidesteps whether he will be one again in 2020.
Kasich was Trump’s longest-lasting competitor in last year’s Republican primary and, since declining to endorse Trump, has remained one of the GOP’s most vocal Trump detractors. In the book, he repeats his claim that he was offered — and declined — a chance to be Trump’s vice president, an assertion the Trump camp has dismissed.
Kasich won just one primary — in his home state of Ohio — and 154 delegates, but his campaign drew attention as a compassionate conservative alternative amid an unusually rancorous Republican primary and an equally vitriolic general election battle between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The two paths of the book’s title seemingly diverged on Election Day, when — based on the choice Kasich laid out in an April 12, 2016, speech of the same name — Americans chose “the path to darkness” stoked by negativity and fear over “the higher path” of working together for a common purpose.
“The fear turned out to be the driving emotion of the 2016 presidential campaign, and the front-runner tailored his message to stoke that fear,” he writes. “In response, the American people elected a strongman who they believed could help them address that fear and get control of their lives once again. Hopefully, that’s how it will work out.”
Kasich likens his own struggles as a candidate to those of everyday Americans’. He does that primarily by detailing moments on the campaign trail in which he felt he got out of his own head and the bubble of his campaign and lifted up someone who needed it or encouraged people to connect.
Kasich quotes a David Bowie song — “We can be heroes, just for one day” — adding, “Something to think about as we rediscover our shared moral compass after the craziest, most directionless presidential election of anyone’s memory.”
He concludes that a crisis of what he dubs “followship” played a key role in the election and in a new “post-truth” world. By that, he means an environment of “siloed” media personalized to one’s individual beliefs; disjointed, often conflicting messages; and fractured communities that make it difficult to keep one’s bearings.
“We can’t pick and choose among half-truths and utter falsehoods and grab only at the ones that reinforce our preconceived notions or stoke our shared fears,” he writes. “We can’t live in our own reality — not if we hope to come together and attempt to solve the very real problems facing this great country.”