Inspiration for political speeches comes from any number of places. For John Kasich, his source appears to be Leave It to Beaver.
During a campaign stop in Fairfax, Virginia, on Monday afternoon, the oft-described gentle hugging governor of Ohio quite literally referenced an episode from a ’50s sitcom.
“How did I get elected?” Kasich said, tiptoeing around a stool with a water bottle on top. “I didn’t have anybody for me. We just got an army of people who—and many women—who left their kitchens to go out and go door to door and to put yard signs up for me all the way back, you know, when things were different.”
“It was an army of the women that really helped me to get elected to the state senate,” Kasich said, gingerly concluding his clumsy recollection of his successful 1978 Ohio bid.
If this vision of the United States, described with no malicious intent, sounds like a black-and-white hued riff from a suburban father, that’s because it is.
There’s a scene in Leave It to Beaver, which ran on television from 1957 to 1963, in which the titular character’s father, Ward Cleaver, delivers some words of wisdom to his son Wally.
“Whenever we cook inside, Mom always does the cooking, but whenever we cook outside, you always do it. How come?” Wally, with birds chirping in the background, innocently questions.
Cue Ward aka John Kasich with the “father knows best” response.
“Well, it’s sort of traditional, I guess,” responds Ward, while busily preparing man food outside. “You know, they say a woman’s place is in the home. I suppose as long as she’s in the home, she might as well be in the kitchen.”
Some viewers, like Wally, at this point might be questioning why Ward grills his burgers outside instead of within the comfort of his own home. Because, of course, women cook when it’s easy and they have “modern conveniences” at their disposal.
“Women do all right when they have all the modern conveniences,” Ward explains. “But us men are better at this rugged type of outdoor cooking. Sort of a throwback to cavemen days.”
Of course, Kasich might not be quite as tone deaf as Ward Cleaver, a kind of staunch traditionalist who would be shocked to know that women exercise control of their cooking locations, not to mention their bodies (gasp!) in 2016.
When asked about the comment, senior communications adviser Chris Schrimpf insisted that Kasich’s remarks were completely benign.
“John Kasich’s campaigns have always been homegrown affairs,” Schrimpf emailed The Daily Beast. “They’ve literally been run out of his friends’ kitchens, and many of his early campaign teams were made up of stay-at-home moms who believed deeply in the changes he wanted to bring to them and their families. That’s real grassroots campaigning and he’s proud of that authentic support. To try and twist his comments into anything else is just desperate politics.”
This is par for the course with Kasich, who has made questionable remarks about women in the past. During a Mitt Romney rally in 2012, Kasich said, “It’s not easy to be a spouse of an elected official. You know, they’re at home, doing the laundry and doing so many things while we’re up here on the stage getting a little bit of applause, right? They don’t often share in it. And it is hard for the spouse to hear the criticism and to put up with the travel schedule and to have to be at home taking care of the kids.”
See women get to make the small choices in relationships.
“My wife makes all the minor decisions about where we live, what we eat, where we go, where we vacation, and what we do on a daily basis,” Kasich said in 2010 after being elected governor. “So, she’s in charge of the family and she’s done a fantastic job.”
The staid statesman has also railed against the negative influences of the Coen Brothers’ classic Fargo and the hip-hop band The Roots. After Kasich rented the film, known for a particularly gory scene involving a man being shoved into a woodchipper, the governor of Ohio tried to have it banned from Blockbuster’s shelves.
And as for that American-values-desecrating band on Jimmy Fallon’s show, Kasich once tossed their CD out of the window of his car, calling the music “offensive drivel.”
Kasich, a 63-year-old conservative governor who recently voted in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood in Ohio, has performed surprisingly well among female voters in the past.
An exit poll from his 2014 gubernatorial campaign showed that 60 percent of women who voted favored John Kasich. Most of that contingent, 71 percent, were white women.
His presidential campaign, characterized by his literal embraces, has often made him out to be the nice guy in a field where the top contender laughingly throws around racist epithets.
Just like Ward Cleaver, it seems as if Kasich means well. But in 2016, “Leave it to Kasich” might not be the most marketable show.