In light of the coarse and unrefined assault on Rep. Paul Ryan by ankle biters like Howie Carr and Ann Coulter, we can find some solace in an honest assessment of former Rep. Jack Kemp, the happy warrior and mentor to Speaker Ryan.
The public square is a bit empty since the passing of Kemp whose ideas transcended race, class, nationality and even parties. A policy intellectual does not hold much sway in the age of Trump, who lacks a conservative core and proves that his “conservative” supporters have no principles whatsoever.
There’s less liberty involved in the rhetoric of a man who wants to “Make America Great Again.” In contrast, Kemp had something to say about liberty that is to say the economic liberty that binds him more to the Goldwater-Buckley-Reagan movement than the bad faith practitioners such as Carr and Coulter, the pulp nonfiction writers from the school of resentment.
Jonathan Bronitsky’s mostly favorable review (in The American Conservative of all places! ) of the new Kondracke-Barnes bio of the famous football star turned policy wonk reminds us of the greatness of the man.
Kemp’s principal contribution to politics was not the global impact of his supply-side policies. His principal contribution was his intrepid career, which steers us toward an investigation of conservatism’s fabric and contours. If the investigation is embarked upon with honest intentions, we on the right may find that we’re not just smashed together by adversaries and grudgingly clustered beneath a “Big Tent.” We may realize we’re united by the pursuit of liberty. And acknowledging that truth would propel the Republican Party to sounder thinking and governing.
The Trump folks are really not into “fabric and contours.” Sad.