Jack Kemp passed away this weekend. It’s a sad reality that his passing was better covered by the sports media, who respectfully recalled the former quarterback, than the mainstream media. Kemp was a true ideologue and visionary in the best sense of both words. He believed in something and put his beliefs into action. He wasn’t a politician out of any need for attention or power, but because he wanted to make the world a better place. Only his view of a better world was not the unrealistic, Utopian Kumbaya of the liberals but grounded in economic and political reality. And he eschewed knee-jerk right wing politics for a kinder, gentler capitalist agenda that, if realized, would benefit all Americans.
I once looked to him as the future of the Republican Party. He was the original “compassionate conservative,” the real deal. He was a Republican through and through, yet realized the GOP would need to remind the public of its heart if it wanted to maintain its status. It was quite a blow to me when Kemp finally had the national stage, during his run for VP, when he was unable to articulate his position as well as he had previously. During his debate with the robotic and un-charismatic Gore, Kemp was surprisingly incapable of conveying his passion or his message. It was a golden opportunity missed, and Kemp never regained the national stage.
Still, he continued to speak and his voice was worth listening to. Not long after Obama’s win, Kemp wrote, “the GOP needs to rethink and revisit its historic roots as a party of emancipation, liberation, civil rights and equality of opportunity for all.” He was right, again. The Republican Party cannot hand over those issues to the Democrats and hope to win elections in the future. We need to remind the pubic of our core values and how they will make for a stronger America. Kemp took bold stands – his position in favor of drastic changes to the federal tax code, including imposition of a form of a flat tax, was radical, but more necessary today than ever. And as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development he showed that Republican and concern for the poor were not mutually exclusive concepts.
With our party in disarray, we could use a man like Jack Kemp. We need to be the party of strong values, visionary ideas and concern for the health and safety of all Americans. Let’s honor Jack Kemp by living up to his ideals and shaping our party to be a shining beacon for liberty, freedom and justice for all.