Read alsoRights Gone Wrong
A New York Times Notable Book for 2011 Since the 1960s, ideas developed during the civil rights movement have been astonishingly successful in fighting overt discrimination and prejudice. But how successful are they at combating the whole spectrum of social injustice-including conditions that aren't directly caused by bigotry?…
Ronald Reagan’s policies sparked the American renaissance, but the Gipper’s leadership is only part of the story. The economic theory that underpinned America’s success was pioneered by a star professional quarterback turned self-taught intellectual and "bleeding-heart conservative": Jack Kemp.
Kemp’s role in a pivotal period in American history is at last illuminated in this first-ever biography, which also has lessons for the politics of today. Kemp was the congressional champion of supply-side economics—the idea that lowering taxes would foster growth. Even today, almost no one advocates a return to a top income tax rate of 70 percent.
Kemp didn’t just challenge the Democratic establishment. He also encouraged his fellow Republicans to be growth (not austerity) minded, open their tent to minorities and blue-collar workers, battle poverty and discrimination, and once again become "the party of Lincoln."
Kemp approached politics the same way he played quarterback for the Buffalo Bills: with a refusal to accept defeat. Yet he also was incapable of personal attack, arguing always on the level of ideas. He regarded opponents as adversaries, not enemies, and often cooperated with them to get things done. Despite many ups and downs, including failed presidential and vice-presidential bids, he represented a positive, idealistic, compassionate Republicanism.
Drawing on never-published papers and more than one hundred Kemp Oral History Project interviews, noted journalists Morton Kondracke and Fred Barnes trace Kemp’s life, from his childhood through his pro football career to his influential years as a congressman and cabinet secretary.
As the American Dream seems to be waning and polarized politics stifles Washington, Kemp is a model for what politics ought to be. The Republican party and the nation are in desperate need of another Kemp.
From the Hardcover edition.