Why Did An Anti-Choice Former Governor Get More DNC Speaking Time Than AOC?

Supermajority Education Fund

August 18, 2020

This year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the Democratic National Convention (DNC) — which kicked off in Milwaukee on Monday — won’t be filled with large crowds or a germ-spreading balloon drop. Before Joe Biden and Kamala Harris virtually accept their nominations as presidential and vice presidential candidates on Thursday night, several other familiar faces will take the stage, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)… and John Kasich. 

The former Ohio governor, who ran against Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican primary and has long spoken out against the president, spoke for just under four minutes on the opening night of the DNC. Ocasio-Cortez, on the other hand, is speaking on Tuesday, and for only 60 seconds. So, why does an anti-choice Republican governor get a speaking spot on the same night as Michelle Obama’s keynote address, but Ocasio-Cortez, an advocate for women and a beacon of hope for progressive policies, only gets one minute to share her thoughts?

With Biden and Harris on the Democratic ticket this year, the Democratic party is jumping in the race with two people who, according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll, are seen by voters as more moderate than Donald Trump. Likely with this in mind, the Biden camp is trying to woo as many traditional Republicans, who like Kasich, have never supported, or have abandoned support of, Trump. During his speech on Monday night, a montage of other die-hard Republicans played, urging their fellow voters to jump ship and support Biden. 

Kasich, who wrote in John McCain’s name in the 2016 election, told CNN last week that his “conscience” led him to make the jump to supporting Biden, who he knows has an “ability to bring people together.” 

“I believe we need a new direction,” Kasich said. “When people work together, remarkable and good things happen…and I would encourage other Republicans to know that it’s OK to take off a partisan hat. Take off your partisan hat and vote on the basis of what your conscience tells you about the future of our country, not just for yourself, but for your kids as well.”

Although Biden supporters might see Kasich as a unifier between the two parties, his record on key women’s issues—specifically abortion—is hardly on the progressive side. At the end of 2018 when he was wrapping up his term as Ohio governor, Kasich signed Senate Bill 145, one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S. The bill banned dilation and evacuation, a common second-trimester procedure. Doctors who violate this law could face up to 18 months in prison. The bill is otherwise known as the Ohio Dismemberment Abortion’ Ban. 

“I’m pro-life,” Kasich said at a public event around the time he signed this bill. “I think the issue, whether you’re pro-life or you’re pro-choice, is moving in the direction of the earliest the better and not the latest.” As governor, Kasich basically did everything he could to restrict abortion in his state but not ban the procedure entirely. In 2016, he signed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks and a bill that blocked government funds from going to health clinics that also perform abortions. 

According to the Guttmacher Institute, the tactic of conservative politicians has not been to completely ban abortion but instead to restrict abortion methods. This move from Kasich was a precursor to the six week abortion ban, otherwise known as the “heartbeat bill” that Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH) signed into law in April 2019. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on the other hand, has proven herself to be a champion of women.

Ocasio-Cortez’s nearly 10-minute speech in which she condemned Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) for calling her a “fucking bitch” on the Capitol steps has more than 2 million total views. She clearly captivates an audience, and she reflects the views of many young voters when it comes to the environment, the economy, healthcare, the right to choose an abortion, and more. She is, however, only one of two speakers under the age of 35 at the convention and only one of three Latinx speakers. 

As the Pew Research Center found last year, Generation Z voters, many of whom are voting for the first time in this next election, are a lot like millennials when they vote. They want to see more racial and ethnic diversity in their leadership and they think the government should do more to solve problems. An Axios poll also found that millennials and Generation Z voters are embracing socialism; having someone like Ocasio-Cortez to represent them with a bigger time slot at the DNC would reflect who these voters are. A millennial will be in the Oval Office one day, so why not give one ample time at the DNC now?

The voters whose votes the Democratic party hopes to court this fall do not look like John Kasich. They look like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As Vox found on Super Tuesday, 58% of voters ages 18-29 chose Bernie Sanders, while only 17% voted for Biden. Ocasio-Cortez was an early and steadfast supporter of Sanders in this last primary and in the 2016 election. To allow her, a woman of color, who fights for her own constituents’ basic human rights every day on Capitol Hill, more time to speak this week is to give voice to Generation Z and millennial voters who outvoted Baby Boomers in the 2018 midterms —you know, the record election now referred to as the “Year of the Woman?” Something to think about.