The only time I’ve been seriously tempted to vote for a Republican (aside from Barbara Carlson’s bizarre bid for mayor of Minneapolis, but that was during the Age of Ventura when any lunacy could be entertained) was when Jack Kemp was on the presidential ticket with Bob Dole. Kemp struck me as a smart and decent man, committed to a vision of the Republican party as part of the tradition of Abraham Lincoln. His policies at HUD seemed fresh and thoughtful, and aimed toward actually helping people.
Unfortunately, his performance in the Vice Presidential debate against Al Gore (Al Gore!) was disappointing; the eloquence of his thinking never came out in his speech. And the rest of the Dole package was distastefully unambitious; the Republican party had not quite started its flight from ideas, but it was clearly fearful of experimentation and not terribly interested in reaching past its traditional constituency.
“Bleeding heart conservatives” are now a rare bird indeed. The sort of decency that Kemp exuded–he argued strongly for his ideas, but avoided the ad hominem, at least in public debate–is hard to find on the Right, and his concern for helping people rise out of poverty has been replaced by noise about hot-button wedge issues. Kemp represented a pragmatic approach to social policy that aimed to fulfill the American promise. The Republicans would do well to take a cue from Kemp’s tone in The Inspiration of the Football Huddle:
We didn’t tolerate bigotry on the field, either. Any difference in race, creed and class immediately dissolved in the common aim of a team win. Divisiveness only weakens a team. It has no place in a huddle, on or off the field.
Something tells me they won’t.