Ed Driscoll

Jack Kemp: Internecine Warrior

In Commentary, Daniel Casse writes, “Kemp’s real contribution to Republican politics was his ability to create factions within his own party. That made him more exciting and interesting than most pols”:

Look at his career. Kemp was more often a lone wolf, a dissenter, and a constant source of internecine warfare.  The Kemp-Roth tax cuts, the beginning of the Reagan Revolution, were really intended as a Molotov cocktail thrown toward the Nixon-era GOP establishment. By the time Reagan came to town, Kemp was bad mouthing his former friend David Stockman. His entire “empowerment” agenda in the early 1990s was a burr beneath Bush White House chief of staff John Sununu’s saddle. When he was forced to be a team player as VP nominee to his former enemy Bob Dole, the charm, the clever arguments, and odd-ball alliance-building disappeared.

I think that today’s GOP doldrums are due to the fact that it doesn’t have enough renegades like Kemp who buck the party line. The Republican Party has always been at its most exciting when the establishment powers are thrown off their game (think Goldwater, Reagan, the early Gingrich, McCain in 2000). Today I see a handful of earnest opposition leaders who all agree with one another. No wonder no one is listening. Until Republicans start fighting with one another again, the party will have trouble finding the road back to popularity.

Back in 2005, before the midterms and last year’s presidential election, Jonah Goldberg noted:

The history of the conservative movement’s successes has been the history of intellectual donnybrooks, between libertarians and traditionalists, hawks and isolationists, so-called neocons and so-called paleocons, less-filling versus tastes great. Liberals would be smart to copy that and stop worrying how to mimic our direct mail strategies.

In contrast, as Casse writes above, “Until Republicans start fighting with one another again, the party will have trouble finding the road back to popularity.” On the other hand, the ability to muzzle any and all dissent within the ranks isn’t exactly stopping the power currently in power from implementing most, if not all of their agenda.