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Rand Paul: Channeling Jack Kemp

06.06.15 08:46 AM – Andy McDonald
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GOP contenders compare themselves to Ronald Reagan. In addressing inner city problems and reaching out to African Americans, Rand Paul is sounding like Jack Kemp.

Back in 1991, the economy was sluggish, America’s place in the world was uncertain following a costly war in Iraq, and racial tensions were high in the wake of the beating of a black man by the L.A.P.D. The American people looked to the White House for leadership and saw an administration seemingly out of touch and out of ideas.

Things sure have changed!

Republican leadership of the day seemed clueless and calcified, except for one guy: Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp.

Kemp was a chronic thorn in the side of the Republican establishment. White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan disparaged Kemp with the nickname “high school Harry” because he was terminally enthusiastic about change and new ideas.

Jack Kemp, for example, doggedly peddled enterprise zones, not government entitlements, as a remedy for urban poverty. By keeping tax dollars in the community, Kemp argued, poor neighborhoods could grow new businesses, build a new future, and break the cycle of dependence on the government.

Moreover, Jack Kemp went searching for votes in places where no other Republicans would go. He went to distressed urban neighborhoods and he enthusiastically courted African American votes, figuring Republicans would never get their support if they didn’t at least ask.

In 2015, it is Kentucky Senator Rand Paul who seems to be picking up the legacy of Jack Kemp - the first true proponent of what has been coined compassionate conservativism.

A few weeks back, the senator from the reddest of red states went to Chicago to address a predominantly African American audience. In his speech, he decried the impact of violent crime, not just in Chicago, but all over America. Some grandstanding politicians can take as long as 10 seconds to tweet that black lives matter, but you can bet they wouldn’t get within 20 miles of a distressed neighborhood.

In contrast, Rand Paul’s appearance sent a message: He was there to tell voters, face to face, that black lives matter. It was a page right out of Jack Kemp’s playbook. And what did Paul offer as one remedy for poverty? An idea resembling Kemp’s pioneering urban enterprise zones.

Jack Kemp pitched unconventional ideas, like wanting to put the United States economy back on the gold standard. Kemp, it seemed, was driven by a peculiar desire to safeguard the value of American credit and currency. Kemp was also something of stickler for the Constitution, a quality that has gained Senator Paul national attention during recent debates about privacy and the growing power of the National Security Agency.

In the 2016 GOP presidential primaries, you’ll hear a herd of Republicans raging against the growing power of government, trying to cast themselves as the true heirs to the legacy of Ronald Reagan.

But in channeling Jack Kemp, Rand Paul seems to again be thinking outside of the box, setting himself apart from a very crowded GOP field.

In doing so, he’s looking more like a guy who’s trying to do the one thing Republicans need to do to win in 2016 – build a Republican Party of the future by cultivating new voters.

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