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.
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