I’m with Joel, in that I didn’t agree a whole lot with Jack Kemp. I freely admit that he and his brand of economic libertarianism were awfully compelling, but I could never buy into the most alluring feature of his Ayn Rand/Chicago School style Reaganomics: its simplicity.
It was hard for me to believe, as Kemp genuinely did, that tax cuts for the rich would eventually trickle down to the rest of us, and I’m confident in asserting that the past couple decades of an ever widening economic divide have proven my doubts well founded. So why, considering how much I opposed his policies and dreaded his unfulfilled ascendancy, did I not only bother to briefly commemorate his passing, but follow up with this second post?
Yes, as I previously wrote, in light of the GOP’s recent and disastrous collapse, I do view libertarians like Kemp (and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld) as a tremendous missed opportunity for his party to seize upon a potent political theme that could have kept Republicans competitive, if not dominant, for decades to come. And I’m thankful for their fumble.
But Kemp’s passing also deserves notice because he represented the sort of politician who was rare even in his day, and who is almost entirely absent amongst the leadership of the 21st century Republican Party… one whose policies you can hate, but whose character you can respect. Perhaps it was his competitive experience as a top athlete, or perhaps it was simply who he was, but unlike many Republicans today, Kemp always seemed able to distinguish between an opponent and an enemy.
I don’t remember Kemp ever attempting to paint Democrats and their supporters as cowards, traitors, terrorists or worse, and so he never earned the type of enmity by example that liberals like me now justly hold for so many of his Republican colleagues. And if more Republicans had followed Kemp’s example in both substance and style, I wonder if his party would be in the dire straits it finds itself in today?