St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

RIP, Compassionate Conservative

Former President George W. Bush coined the term "compassionate conservative" when running for his first term. It turns out he never was compassionate as most of us understand the term, and his administration's moves to nationalize banks with its TARP program also undercut his claim to have been conservative. Bush has ruined the brand for the foreseeable future.

Yesterday, the nation lost a political figure who really was a compassionate conservative, long before Bush claimed the moniker. Jack Kemp was a conservative's conservative. He and former Delaware Sen. William Roth were the political parents of Professor Arthur Laffer's "supply side economics," now better know as Reaganomics.

But unlike the stereotype conservative who glorified greed, Kemp really was compassionate. He cared about the poor and the consequences of policy on the underprivileged. While his star power as a former NFL quarterbacked certainly helped, what really got him elected (and reelected 8 times) as a Republican from a blue-collar district in industrial Buffalo, NY, was his sincere concern for working families. He sought conservative solutions to real problems.

Kemp championed the empowerment of disadvantaged people. He favored and encouraged tenant management of public housing, and spotlighted local leaders in that effort (including St. Louis' own Bertha Gilkey). Many of us forget that the purpose of his precious Reaganomics was to increase market-driven employment for low-income people. We can debate whether it worked, but it was clear that Kemp's heart was in the right place.

Jack Kemp was a worthy adversary. He will be missed.


Blogger Clark said...

Somewhat off-topic: Bush didn't nationalize anything with TARP. For him, it was a giant fund to hand out money to giant banks.

Back on topic: Kemp even added a chapter to an anti-poverty policy book edited by John Edwards before his 2008 run. He was (mostly) wrong about the policy, but he tried at least, and he never stopped engaging the other side on ideas.

May 4, 2009 at 6:30 AM  
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