What Might Have Been

Jack French Kemp (July 13, 1935 – May 2, 2009)

I have always been a Democrat, even before knowing what a Democrat was, I was a Democrat. The idea that you look out for the least fortunate. The belief that everyone has a right to have a seat at the table. The philosophy that welcomes different views and perspectives. This to me is the hallmark of what I call MY PARTY.

Because I understand the importance of having opposition, the challenge from the Republicans has always been welcomed. How best to define who you are than by your opposition. In fact, as a moderate Democrat it can honestly be stated that there are aspects of the conservative movement that I can find common ground. What I can not abide by is the hypocrisy of the Republicans.

The Grand Old Party has been whittled down to a group of neoconservatives that preach the love of God, but display little of His compassion; that defends the rights of the unborn but cuts funding that serves these same children after birth; that praises Democracy but work to insure not all share in it equally. They are hypocrites. This is why I dedicate today's post to a person who could have steered the Republican Party in a different direction, Senator Jack Kemp (R-NY) who passed away last Saturday.

I remember writing about Jack Kemp in my college ethics class during President Reagan's term in office. What I admired about him was that he practiced what he preached. It seemed to me at the time that while the Reagan administration was creating a class system in America, Kemp was trying to bridge different socioeconomic classes together. I recall a friend saying Kemp would succeed Reagan as our next President. It was clear to me the Republicans had the momentum and would take the White House, but I knew it wouldn't be Kemp but Vice President Bush, Sr. Kemp was much like the earlier John McCain, too progressive for the conservative end of the party and a poor campaigner unable to get his message across. In the end Kemp would not be the successor to Reagan.

Kemp swam against the Reagan Era where the goal was to strengthen its ties to rural whites with, State's Rights and traditional values speeches. Both of which were codes for anti-Civil Rights Laws. Kemp was a conservative who believed in cutting taxes. But he also believed in the big tent where all Americans could find a place. He saw blacks as conservatives at heart and in many ways he was right. African Americans were very religious, supportive of "fair" law enforcement, and had not taken sides on the pro-choice or, gay movement. Blacks were concerned about social programs and Kemp knew that. He championed Civil Rights legislation, push to improve public housing, supported creating Enterprise Zones that would work to create jobs in urban areas. If there was a moment in time where the Republicans could have made inroads into the black community it was during the first term of President Reagan and they had the man to do it, Jack Kemp.

The Republicans didn’t see a need for blacks. They had their growing numbers of disenchanted white democrats fleeing from an ever growing liberal Democratic Party. Kemp was seen as a misguided radical. In truth, Kemp saw the future.

Today Republicans are members of a party without a message. As their tent grows smaller and smaller, they may need to look back and draw on the vision of a man who not only spoke his conviction but lived it.


Anonymous said...

Reginald you should also point out the Kemp went to speak before the NAACP when Bob Dole and other republicans were afraid to. You make a fair point as far as the post but I'm glad they went the way they did. Now they are lost and hopefully they will stay there for many years.

Anonymous said...

We should also look at this example as an admonition to Democrats. We are at the top of our game now. However, I am starting to see earlier warning signs of ideological inflexibility.

Fortunately the President seems to be staying on message so far. However, the more that national, State, or local Dmeocrats pose litmus tests to active members or to those seeking elective office, the weaker we will become as well.

CSPAN said...

What the president is doing is moving the party to the center where it belongs. Look at what happen to the republicans when they moved the party to the right. Americans are not extremist. As long as the left is willing to accept moderate gains and not go crazy we should be fine.

Anonymous said...

Kemp Stunk! That is why he never got anywhere! He was worthless and weak!

Anonymous said...

U can't put all Republicans in one basket. Some have very strong beliefs and practice them.

As a Republican the welfare of the child is important at all times but at the same time it is the responsibility of parents to know if they can afford a child or not.

Anonymous said...

They don't have a message because they never had a message. Attack that what it was all about. Look at Fox. Yesterday they were trying to attack President Obama. Here this man is trying to save this country and what can these fools do but attack. Brush the haters off Obama!

Reginald Milton said...

To 2:45 P.M.
Good point. Thanks for the comment.

To 7:53 A.M.
I've seen it happen so many times. Democrats can be their own worst enemy.

Your point about the litmus test is an important one. This is the reason the GOP has found itself in such a small tent.

Clearly it depends on the issue but overall I'm in agreement.

To 12:13 P.M.
Your views are always welcomed here, but next time give examples.

To 2:41 P.M.
I'm more focused on the GOP's stance as a whole, than any one Republican.

To 6:53 A.M.
Yes, but we must be careful. As much as I like MSNBC their pro-Obama stance is jeopardizing their credibility as much as Fox, anti-Obama stance is hurting them.

What people want from their news is information not entertainment. Leave the entertainment to us bloggers.

Grayquill said...

Democrates may think they are at the top of their game but in my opinion most were voted in as a knee jerk reaction. I don't think people are that much in love with the democrats as some hope, they are just the lessor of two evils at the moment. The point is they are still a preceived evil and as soon as the republicans are seen as the lessor evil they will be voted back in. As to the the smaller and smaller tent...there might be some temporary truth in that statement.