The Strange Rebirth of “Jack Kemp Republicanism”
For at least the last 30 years, Republicans have been warned about the impending effects of massive Third World immigration—both legal and illegal. Starting in the mid-1980s, Chronicles magazine broke taboos by critiquing “Open Borders” as an attack on the American identity. The electoral prospects of the Republican Party were not very high on Chronicles’ list of concerns, but contributors such as Sam Francis did note that current immigration policy would destroy the GOP, as well as conservatism.
A decade later, VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow and Edwin S. Rubenstein laid out exactly how—and when—immigration would displace the Republican Party in a June 1997 cover story for National Review. They crunched the numbers and predicted that 2008 would be the first year in which the demographic wave would catch up with Republicans. After that the prospects for electing Republican presidents would just get worse.
Of course, Brimelow, Rubenstein, Francis and Chronicles were 100% correct. Massive Third World immigration has dramatically changed the U.S. and Republicans are indeed facing increasingly dismal prospects at the national level. As more Red states turn purple—and then Blue—due to over-immigration, these effects will soon be felt at the Congressional and state levels as well.
But instead of admitting their failures and trying to control immigration, Republican elites are doubling down on their policy of open borders and pandering to blacks and others who will never vote for them anyway.
In other words, they are taking the friendly advice of the New York Times to “channel Jack Kemp.”
For readers too young to remember, GOP Congressman Jack Kemp (1935-2009), Sam Tanenhaus provided a decent description in his April 5, 2014 New York Times piece, helpfully headlined Note to Republicans: Channel Jack Kemp:
It might seem a curious moment for a Jack Kemp revival. Many remember him as an evangelist for supply-side economics and its drastic tax cutting — exactly the approach some Republicans say needs to be replaced with a fresh agenda that grapples with joblessness and stagnant wages.
But there was another side to Kemp, a self-described “bleeding-heart conservative” who preached the gospel of upward mobility, economic opportunity, cultural diversity and racial justice.
In some cases, Republicans are literally recycling Kemp’s ideas from the 1970s and 80s.
Senator Rand Paul has recently tried to resurrect the idea of “enterprise zones,” whereby people who open businesses in the inner city get tax credits. Paul also has urged Republicans to “get beyond deportation” on immigration (as if they ever really tried it) and hectored his white supporters with the following Kemp-like rant:
The door’s not going to open up to the African-American community, to the Hispanic community, until we have something to offer. If you look at the war on drugs, three out of four people in prison are black or brown. But your kids and grandkids aren’t perfect either. The police don’t come to your neighborhoods, you get a better lawyer, these are some injustices. [Video, Rand Paul speech at Freedom Summit C-SPAN, April 12, 2014]
And recently, Paul spoke at Harvard University and complained that “you go to a Republican event and it`s all white people.” Perhaps he should take a look at his own events which are whiter than a Bruce Springsteen concert.
But Rand Paul is not the only member of the Republican Establishment trying to resurrect the spirit of Jack Kemp.
Jeb Bush, the apparent frontrunner for 2016, recently called illegal immigration, “an act of love” and is a proponent of Amnesty. As Governor of Florida, Bush helped stop a Ward Connerly-sponsored ballot initiative aimed at ending Affirmative Action in the state.
Rep. Paul Ryan is leading Republican efforts to pass Amnesty in the House of Representatives. Ryan actually worked for Kemp at Empower America (a now defunct and largely unremembered think-tank) and cites him as a mentor. As the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2012, Ryan went against the Romney campaign’s wishes and campaigned in the inner city. How the Romney-Ryan ticket lost despite this ingenious vote-generating effort is anybody’s guess.
Ryan’s latest project: finding conservative approaches to addressing black poverty. This was apparently spurred by a prayer from a black preacher during the 2012 campaign. Ryan’s initial efforts on this project backfired when blacks called him racist for bringing up a “culture of work.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus helps set the tone for this pandering. After the GOP lost an eminently winnable election in 2012, Priebus somehow kept his job. Yet he is confident knows how to win in 2016. “We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.” 5 Ways Reince Priebus Is Channeling George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, By Ron Fournier, National Journal, March 18, 2013
Priebus blamed Romney for not pushing amnesty during the election.
“Using the word `self-deportation` — it`s a horrific comment to make,” Priebus said, in a forceful rebuke. “I don`t think it has anything to do with our party. When a candidate makes those comments, obviously, it hurts us.” [CORRECTED: GOP CHIEF: Mitt Romney`s `Self-Deportation` Quote Was `Horrific`, ByBrett LoGiurato, BUSINESSINSIDER.COM, Aug. 16, 2013]
In fact, all the contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination are likely to favor Amnesty (perhaps something for Amnesty opponents like Jeff Sessions or Donald Trump to consider should they have presidential ambitions). They will not even mention Affirmative Action (unless it is to support racial quotas).
So, since the GOP appears to have embraced the Kemp strategy of tax cuts along with leftist rhetoric on race, it is worth looking at how their man actually did in terms of electoral success.
Kemp never won an election higher than the Congressional level. He was elected to Congress from the state of New York in 1973 in an almost all-white and solidly Republican district. He was no doubt helped by being a star football player for the Buffalo Bills.
Though Kemp was a darling of the Main Stream Media and conservative activists and fundraisers, Kemp flamed out in the 1988 Republican presidential primaries. He finished 4th in Iowa (11% of the vote), 3rd in New Hampshire (13% of the vote) and then dropped out soon after.
Despite this embarrassing result, Kemp’s political career was saved when he was appointed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by President Bush in 1989.
While leading HUD, Kemp distinguished himself by running up the budget from $19 billion to $28 billion, largely in an attempt to implement his enterprise zone idea. Even Kemp’s supporters admitted the project was a failure. He also tried to withhold federal funds from the city of Costa Mesa, California when it barred illegals from receiving welfare and other handouts.
After leaving HUD, Kemp spent his time opposing things like California’s Proposition 187, which sought to prevent illegals from getting welfare and Proposition 209, which outlawed race preferences in college admissions. While this reinforced his media darling status, it turned off the Republican base and he was unable to mount much support for his long-anticipated run in the 1996 GOP Presidential primaries.
But, again, Kemp’s political career was salvaged by the Republican Establishment. Bob Dole picked him to be his vice presidential candidate.
The Dole-Kemp ticket lost in a landslide and picked up a meager 12% of the black vote and 21% of the Hispanic vote. In other words, despite years of pandering, Kemp-Dole did essentially the same as the Bush-Quayle ticket four years earlier, which received 10% of the black vote. Kemp-Dole actually did worse than Bush-Quayle among Hispanics.
In a March 1990 article for Chronicles, Sam Francis perhaps summarized why Kemp failed to achieve any sort of electoral success despite massive support from the media and GOP elites:
In 1988 neoconservative idol Jack Kemp gaily predicted that “in 10 years, one-quarter of the Republican Party will consist of conservative blacks, conservative Hispanics, conservative Asian-Americans – or else the Republican Party will resign itself to permanent minority status.” Which party will take care of traditional Americans no one seems to know or care. [PDF]
The moral of Kemp’s first incarnation: parties and candidates that insult, ignore and demean their supporters in hopes of building a new, more fashionable base are playing a losing game. They alienate their true base without picking up any support from those to whom they are pandering.
If Republicans want to win, they should do the opposite of the failed Jack Kemp strategy. They should take care of their white base by appealing to their interests and understanding their concerns.
Peter Bradley writes from Washington D.C.