Former Republican Ohio AG Jim Petro: Trump 'Abandoning What Has Been The Historic Philosophy' Of The GOP

Donald Trump speaks while accepting the Republican party presidential nomination in Cleveland. (Tony Ganzer / ideastream)
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by Tony Ganzer, ideastream

Leading up to Election Day we've been exploring the Ohio GOP's identity and style as it relates to national trends, and candidates.  Prompting this was my interview this year with late Republican Ohio Congressman Steven LaTourette.  He said former Governor, Senator, and Cleveland Mayor George Voinovich, heralded a next generation of true Republican leader. I took that to mean he focused to a large degree on pragmatism and inclusion. 

I spoke about this idea with former Republican Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, who agreed Ohio Republicanism is a little more pragmatic, on average.  He said though there are more conservative regions in the state, the Northeast contributes to the moderation:

PETRO: “Part of it is the industrial Northeast, because it’s probably a more moderate region among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, for Republicans to be successful they have to be appealing to non-Republican voters, who are Independent voters but who traditionally vote Republican, but more on the pragmatic Republican side.”

GANZER: “Would you say that the trend is—in Ohio specifically—leaning more toward more moderate Republicans, or do you think the party is getting a little more conservative?”

PETRO: “The Republican Party has, nationally and in Ohio, grown to be I think a little more conservative.  But I think we will continue to find that the candidates who are successful as Republicans running statewide are candidates who are a little more moderate than might be the case of Republicans running in other states.”

GANZER: “We saw Governor Kasich, of course, in the primary championing this ‘Compassionate Conservative’ idealism, but primary voters didn’t seem to respond to that.  Do you think that this shows a significant shift in what the Republican Party voters are looking for?”

PETRO: “To me it remains a puzzle, because when you hear the rhetoric of Donald Trump, you don’t hear Republican doctrine.  And so the fact that he’s the Republican Party nominee is kind of a shock to me.  I don’t think that he represents the philosophy that is typically spoke by Republican candidates.  I think his success is that he’s negative about government, negative about the current leadership, negative about the prospects of governing at every onset, and then positive in very vague ways about what he can do about changing it all and making America great again. So it’s difficult to say that he’s changing the philosophy of the Republican party. To me, as a candidate in this election, he’s abandoning what has been the historic philosophy of the Republican Party.”

GANZER: “Would you say there’s any lasting effect of ‘Trumpism’ or the style of politics brought to the fore by Donald Trump, and Ohio’s style of interpreting Republicanism?”

PETRO: “You know, because it’s so difficult to get a handle on what Trump’s political philosophy is, many, many conservatives don’t consider him to be a conservative.  He talks more in a populist vein, and more strives to appeal to voters who just feel disaffected by the system. He doesn’t speak in a positive way about those things that we consider to be Conservative issues: limited government, less government, smaller government, smaller budgets, things like that. He doesn’t talk about that.  So I recognize the fact that he’s the nominee of the Republican Party, but I don’t think he represents the political philosophy that has historically been the philosophy of the Republican Party.”

GANZER: “Is there anything you’d like to say about where the Republican Party goes from here?”

PETRO: “Broadly I would tell you, Tony, when the election is over I think the Republican Party will begin to revisit where it was through the course of this election, where it will be in the future, and I think the reflection among Republican activists around the country will be that it needs to take a direction that is populist in nature, Conservative in its values, but a little more balanced than it has been in its Conservatism of the past, and a little more rational than it has been under its candidate…and I don’t think Donald Trump will win nationally.  And I think the Republican Party will look at that as a signal that we need to kind of reconfigure the issues that Republican Party activists and candidates are going to rely on as they campaign for office.”

Jim Petro is a Republican, and former Ohio Attorney General. 

Separately, Petro was named as signatory of a letter released yesterday by the Hillary Clinton campaign, after I spoke with him.

The letter from dozens of former state attorneys general of both major parties criticized FBI Director James Comey for his announcement of looking into emails which may involve Hillary Clinton.

Also named as a signatory was Democratic former Ohio AG and Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher.

LISTEN: In Ohio, History Of GOP 'Pragmatism' Up Against 'Trumpism'

LISTEN: Ohio GOP Political Consultant: All Republicans 'Insulated' From Trump

 

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