Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

R.I.P. Jack Kemp

Former Republican Congressman Jack Kemp has died of cancer.  Although I disagreed with some of his most (in) famous ideas, such as a flat income tax!, I always liked Kemp. He was one of the last of the dying breed of moderate Republicans.  Also, he was a hellova Quarterback for the San Diego Chargers back in the day.  Kemp, who was Bob Dole’s running mate in ’96, was never a rightwing ideologue.  He worked for racial justice.  He worked to get more low cost housing for the poor and his was the idea of “empowerment zones” for business in poor and minority neighborhoods to help alleviate poverty–an idea that worked, at least in part.

He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for president in ’88, losing to VP George H. W. Bush. (He would have made a better president.) Many expected Bush I to name him as VP and were shocked when he went with frosh Sen. from Indiana (and mental lightweight) Dan Quayle! (Only years later do we realize that Quayle reminded Bush I of his eldest son!)

Even though he voted and rooted for John McCain, Kemp wrote an open letter to his grandchildren on why the election of Barack Obama was good news for the nation.  That letter highlighted our horrible history of racism and noted that 40 years ago, few African-Americans could even vote, never mind aspire to the highest office in the land.

Although he was one of the architects of “Reagonomics” who argued strongly for “supply-side” tax cuts as an engine for economic growth, he knew that our current economic crisis  could not be solved by such a strategy alone.  He urged that Congress and president combine such a strategy with FDR style Keynesian economics. Kemp knew that Keynesian economics is the only way to get out of a deep recession.  As a conservative, this rubbed him the wrong way. But he was a realist.

In short, Kemp was one of the dwindling number of Republican leaders who had integrity and who was not captured by a far right ideology.  On some issues, especially racial justice, he was definitely one of the good guys.  I shall miss him and especially his breed of Republican.

May 3, 2009 - Posted by | Obituaries


  1. To see the virtue of warriors not gathered in your own camp requires a mind that can reach beyond it’s own goals. I think you have done well to honor this man in his passing.

    Comment by Steve Schuler | May 3, 2009

  2. I have never been a member of the “all Republicans are evil” mindset. It’s bigotry like “all Jews are moneygrubbers,” etc.

    I would like to see the GOP return to its big tent days when it included the Kemps, the Eisenhowers, the Gerald Fords, the Jacob Javits, the Alfonse D’Amatos, the Lincoln Chafees, the Mark Hatfields, the Chuck Hagels (okay, technically, Hagel is still a Republican, but he retired because after his vote against the Iraq war, he knew he could never win election again), the Harold Stassens, etc.

    Iron sharpens iron. Democrats will not be at the top of our game if the GOP keeps up its self-destruction and circular firing squad. We’ll get lazy and corrupt. The rapidly shrinking and weak GOP means short term gains for Democrats, but without at least two strong and vital national parties, our democracy is in trouble.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 4, 2009

  3. R.I.P. Jack Kemp. You were a good human being – your political affiliation is moot at this point.

    Comment by Paul | May 4, 2009

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: