Jack Kemp Remembered

In 1986, I wrote my first, and to date only, letter to a politician. That letter was to Jack Kemp. I urged him to run for President in 1988. It’s unlikely that the letter of a then sophomore in college made him decide to run for the highest office in the land, but he was, never the less, my candidate during the primary season. And, as we all know, he was unsuccessful.

I supported Jack Kemp primarily because of his pro-growth policies of decreased taxes and less government regulation. He was after all the father of the “enterprise zones”. I viewed him as the rightful successor to President Reagan, even more so than George H. W. Bush. As a young conservative, I had my doubts that the first President Bush was a true conservative. It turned out, of course, that I was right.

Mr. Kemp was an attractive candidate on many levels. As a life long football fan, I found his time as a professional football player an intriguing back story. He was one of the founders of the AFL Players’ Association and served 5 terms as its president. A Republican who served as the president of a labor union, sounds like someone else that we all know.

During his time in the American Football League, Mr. Kemp had many friends who were black. This led him to campaign vigorously though out his career in minority neighborhoods, places where Republicans traditionally had not gone. He demanded that the Republican Party expand its base so that it would appeal to a wide cross section Americans.

Jack Kemp was also a staunch anti-communist / cold warrior. He understood the nature of the communist threat against the West. Just like Ronald Reagan, he believed in peace through strength. The strategy that ultimately brought about the demise of the Soviet Empire.

As the tributes poured in over the last couple of days, I was struck by the same comment from all those that knew him - Jack Kemp was the happy warrior. He stood for a set of principals, conservative principals, but was well liked by members of both parties. He was never a divisive figure.

Recently, when speaking before the House Republican Caucus, Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard used Mr. Kemp and his policies as an example as to how these members should conduct themselves. The point was that they should all be eloquent spokesmen for their core principals. They must offer alternatives and must not be the party of “No!”. And, while sitting in opposition, these Congressman must act with smiles on their faces and not be seen as looking for a fight.

It is unfortunate that we lost Jack Kemp at this time. The country needs him now more than ever. He would have been an effective spokesman against the out of control government spending of the current administration and he would have lobbied hard against the massive tax increases that are about to come.

Jack Kemp should be able to rest in peace knowing that he was an integral part of one of the most effective revolutions in the history of the world – the Reagan Revolution. Our nation is a better place because of his service.

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