February 20, 2009

I CRUCIFIED THE OPTIMIST:

We're Not OK, Jack (Quin Hillyer, 2.20.09, American Spectator)

[I]t wasn't just Kemp's successful advocacy of "supply-side" tax cuts that made him so important -- although conservatives today are so steeped in the tax-cut dogmas that they may not remember how revolutionary Kemp's ideas seemed at the time and how hard they were to promote. It was that Kemp was a constant, insistent, optimistic advocate for anything that he thought could spur economic growth and raise people out of poverty. Kemp shaped more successful policy from his post in the House, and later as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, than just about any legislator in American history.

First, the tax cuts: It was Kemp who sold Ronald Reagan on supply-side theory, way back in the late summer of 1976. It was Kemp who sold most Republican House members on supply-side economics between 1976 and 1980, overcoming the party's static, green-eyeshade proclivities. It was Kemp who inspired Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott, and Dan Lungren to form the "Conservative Opportunity Society" that pushed not just tax cuts but a whole host of economic growth and anti-poverty initiatives.

Significantly, Kemp worked across the aisle, forging unlikely alliances without ever giving up his conservative bona fides. Witness Kemp's work with District of Columbia delegate Walter Fauntroy to pass legislation in 1987 establishing tenant management and urban homesteading in public housing. Witness his numerous ideas for "empowerment zones" and his ceaseless push for welfare reform -- the latter of which did not grow directly from his prescriptions, but certainly was inspired by his long-stated goals.

And Kemp never failed to challenge conventional wisdom or narrow preconceptions. It was a joy, for instance, to hear him have the guts to stand up at a hyper-conservative Republican National Convention and extol America's "liberal, democratic values." He meant small "l" and small "d," of course, but listeners weaned only on modern political rhetoric probably wondered what planet sent Kemp to them. (Houston, we might have a problem.)


Those guts made the Right hate him just as the did Ronald Reagan (during his presidency) and George W. Bush and as they will the next compassionate conservative leader of the Party.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 20, 2009 8:14 AM
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