03 May 2009
In what accidentally seems like further proof of the passing of an era, Jack Kemp succumbed to cancer on Saturday at age 73. The former Buffalo Bills quarterback was strongly identified with supply-side economics, and was co-author of the legislation that enacted Ronald Reagan's tax cuts. Like Reagan, he strove to embody an optimistic can-do attitude, and appeared to be sincere about it. He tried hard to reach out to minorities, and I recall it being said of him that, by virtue of his football experience, he had probably showered with more black men than many other Republicans had even shaken hands with, and thus couldn't be presumed to be racist like many of his comrades from further south. He made a try for the presidency as part of the attempt to bring down George H.W. Bush in 1988, but the closest he came was as Bob Dole's running mate in 1996. His was the generation of Republicans that thought that free enterprise could solve all problems, or at least all problems we mortals had powers to solve. His illness explains why we hadn't heard from him lately, but one wonders what he'd say about the economic crisis, whether he'd blame it on government policies, as so many other Republicans do, or whether he was open-minded enough to realize that some enterprises had been perhaps too free in recent times. But if we are seeing the end of the Reaganist era, then Kemp was dying with the world he helped to make.