Editorial: Jack Kemp's legacy? A true 'compassionate conservative'

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Pro football quarterback, congressman, Cabinet secretary, presidential candidate, vice presidential nominee. Many among us could choose just one of those accomplishments and call it a career. That they belonged to one person in one lifetime is testament to what the world lost last week when Jack Kemp died from cancer at age 73.

One of the pioneers in popularizing supply-side economics, Kemp was an architect of Ronald Reagan's income tax cuts of 1983, relentlessly championing the idea that reducing taxes would spur economic growth. As much as any other politician, he was responsible for putting that philosophy front and center in the Republican message of the last 30 years. In 1996 it helped put him on the national ticket next to GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole.

An original "compassionate conservative" who owned the label far more accurately than many who came after him, Kemp pressed his party to be more inclusive to minorities and the poor, believing that Republicans could gain ground in inner cities while spreading their mantra of free markets, low taxes and economic growth. He pushed to revitalize urban ghettos as the first President Bush's secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

His outreach to minority communities was taken seriously because he'd first taken a stand against segregation affecting black teammates while playing football in the 1960s. His conservative bona fides on economic and social issues guaranteed he'd have a role in the party even when he and the mainstream GOP were on different sides of the immigration debate.

That the party strayed from those constituencies with a decidedly smaller tent strategy may explain why it's struggling to regain relevance today.

We weren't with Kemp on every issue - specifically on his allegiance to tax cuts even in the face of gargantuan deficits - but we appreciated his ability to keep politics civil, debating ideas rather than personalities. Rarely has someone brought a better mix of passion and compassion to public life. Jack Kemp will be missed.

Peoria Journal Star