Kondracke: “Kempism” Beginning To Emerge

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Morton Kondracke spoke last week in Los Angeles at Occidental College at the first Kemp Scholar lecture, a new program created at the college from which Jack Kemp graduated. We have posted the thoughts of Mr. Kondracke previously, as he has become a bit of an expert on Jack Kemp in his writing a much overdue biography.

Last week’s Kondracke visit is reported here. The best part of the report comes when Kondracke got into specifics about Jack Kemp Conservatism, which he dubbed “Kempism”:

“Jack was the first and chief advocate for a new idea called supply-side economics,” Kondracke said. “He’s the one who sold Reagan on what became Reaganomics.” His new biography will argue that Reagan and Kemp, acting in concert on both domestic and international policy, won the Cold War. The book’s working title, he said, is Jack Kemp: the Quarterback Who Changed the World.

While Kemp was a principled conservative, “he also was an idealist, passionately dedicated to the well-being of all Americans, regardless of race or gender or income,” Kondracke said. “He thought that ideas could change the world, and he fought his battles on that level, even though that cost him during his political campaigns.”

Were he alive today, Kemp would not write off 47 percent of the electorate, as Mitt Romney did during last year’s presidential election, he said. Kemp opposed Proposition 187, the 1994 California initiative aimed at undocumented workers, and believed supply-side incentives could have a powerful positive effect on communities of color.

“As Newt Gingrich once said, Jack has showered with more African-Americans than most Republicans have ever met,” Kondracke said. “Jack honestly believed that the GOP could once again be the party of Lincoln, that if the economy provided jobs that extended into the ghetto, African-Americans would vote Republican.”

In the wake of Romney’s defeat, Kondracke added, “We have seen the beginnings of the emergence of ‘Kempism’” from such figures as Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin (who counted Kemp as a mentor), Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. “What the Republican Party needs is what Jack provided—a conservative message that would appeal to average, ordinary citizens.”

It’s clear that Jack Kemp Conservatism is the definitive remedy for what ails the Republican party today; a solid message that appeals to and benefits every American.

Stay tuned to our efforts, whether here on the blog, via Twitter or via our Jack Kemp project email newsletter. We have some very interesting things in the works and the best way to hear about them will be via one of those three methods. We have made recent additions to the GPH Consulting team and together there will be new things you have not seen from a political consulting firm before.

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Kondracke: In Kemp, a Republican Role Model

This column appeared at Roll Call:

The GOP needs to build a party that can speak to the majority of Americans

By Morton M. Kondracke

If Republicans hope to save their party from long-term minority status, they should do what I’ve been doing for the past two years: study the career of Jack Kemp.

I’ve been doing it as an oral history and biography project. They should do it as a survival mechanism. Or, better, as a way to build a party that can speak to a majority of Americans.

As opposed to 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Kemp — the Buffalo Bills quarterback, New York congressman, original sponsor of supply-side economics, Housing secretary and 1996 GOP vice presidential candidate — believed that Republicans could and should go after every voter, regardless of race or income or even union membership.

Romney turns out to have been a total cynic. When he was caught in September saying privately to donors that Republicans had no chance of winning 47 percent of voters because they were “dependent on government” and thought of themselves as “victims,” he distanced himself from his own words, calling them “totally wrong.”

But then, in a post-election private talk to donors, he blamed his loss on “gifts” that President Barack Obama had given to various interest groups. He clearly meant what he said in September — that politics is just a bidding war.

Kemp was the opposite: a thoroughgoing idealist who exuded optimism and believed the GOP could win majorities by fostering hope, growth and opportunity for everyone.

He was so idealistic, in fact, that he genuinely believed that by producing sustained growth and prosperity, the GOP could once again become “the party of Lincoln,” the natural political home of African-Americans. That was unrealistic, but if anyone could have cut into Democratic dominance among blacks, it was Kemp. As a football player, one quip went, “Kemp showered with more African-Americans than most Republicans have ever met.”

A self-proclaimed “bleeding heart conservative,” Kemp sponsored enterprise zone legislation with Democrats to eliminate taxes in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, to attract investment and jobs.

He visited homeless shelters as a first order of business as Housing secretary, walked the streets of Los Angeles after the city’s 1992 riots and insisted on campaigning in ghettos and barrios during the 1996 campaign as Bob Dole’s vice presidential candidate.

In 1994, he denounced California’s Proposition 187, which would have denied government benefits to illegal aliens, and he advocated a comprehensive immigration overhaul to the end of his days. He died in 2009.

Even if there was no way for Romney to win more than 6 percent of black votes against Obama, a Kemp-like platform could have saved him from a 44-point loss among Latinos and a 47 percent loss among Asian-Americans.

As Republican pollster Whit Ayres wrote in his post-election analysis, “the handwriting is on the wall. Until Republican candidates figure out how to perform better among non-white voters, especially Hispanics and Asians, Republican presidential contenders will have an extraordinarily difficult time winning presidential elections from this point forward.”

Republicans are searching furiously for ways to get right with Hispanics after Romney’s “self-deportation” self-immolation. Kemp’s example offers a path. Some also are furiously denouncing Romney’s “gift” analysis.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s response sounds especially Kempian. “We need to get two messages out loudly and early,” he said. “One, we are fighting for 100 percent of the vote, and secondly, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream. Period. No exceptions.”

That’s a good first step, but most Republicans have yet to find a way to sell conservative economics as an opportunity engine.

In his time, Kemp led his party away from an austerity politics focused on balanced budgets, lower spending and higher taxes toward growth politics based on permanent tax rate cuts.

He modeled his 1976 tax bill on President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 proposals and adopted Kennedy’s “a rising tide lifts all boats” slogan.

Kennedy’s measure, enacted after his assassination, lowered top tax rates from 91 percent to 70 percent. The Kemp-Roth bill, adopted and pushed through by President Ronald Reagan, lowered the rate from 70 percent to 50 percent. And, in 1986, a Reagan tax reform bill backed by Kemp lowered the rate to 28 percent and eliminated dozens of breaks and deductions.

America’s growth problems are different today than they were in Kemp’s era. “Stagflation” — simultaneous high inflation and unemployment — were the problem then. Now it’s high unemployment and staggering debt.

Today, Kemp surely would favor drastic tax changes to cut rates and eliminate the loopholes drilled into the tax code since 1986.

He was never much in favor of cutting entitlements, but I’d guess that, like his former intern, Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., he’d favor reining them in to preserve social safety nets without encouraging dependency.

Kemp was never a believer in deep domestic spending cuts, either. Some of that needs to happen, but growth also requires spending on education, infrastructure and research.

The GOP today has a demographic problem, a messaging problem and — most of all — an attitude problem. The Kemp model could solve them all. He really believed in creating an opportunity society for everyone.