On Monday, Michael Gerson wrote a column in the Washington Post entitled “Rand Paul is no Jack Kemp.”
Gerson drew comparisons between Paul and the late Kemp on the issue of minority outreach, ultimately deeming Paul unworthy due to his employing a former shock jock who used to criticize Lincoln, as well as the fact that Paul and his father have criticized Title II of the Civil Rights Act in the past on libertarian grounds. None of these things remotely disqualify Paul from policy discussion, nor do they make him racist as the media would like to infer. Only a simpleton could consider either scenario reasonable, and Paul has smartly put those controversies behind him. Putting aside the “hit-piece” nature of the article, Gerson does bring up a good comparison between the two lawmakers.
Indeed, Paul has been more prolific in minority outreach-without sacrificing conservative principles-than any other Republicans in recent memory. To the African-American community, Paul has pitched school choice, drug law reform, and broader criminal justice reform. To the Hispanic community, Paul has repeated Newt Gingrich’s message that while a secure border is the first priority and blanket grants of citizenship are a non-starter, allowing most illegal immigrants to stay in this country under a legal status is a humane and reasonable alternative to mass deportation.
Simply meeting and talking to minority groups is something important in and of itself, regardless of what is said. The Republican Party has become characterized as an old white man’s club. That image needs to change. Kemp knew that fact well. So he reached out, and he was well received. At first, Paul was not well received, but he has since earned the respect of many minority group leaders. In his recent TIME op-ed, Paul actually pointed out that institutional racism-not necessarily intentional-is still a major problem in this country.
One of Kemp’s proposals to liberate inner cities, which are traditionally populated primarily by minorities, was the concept of deregulated and low-taxed economic freedom zones. Paul has resurrected this proposal, specifically aiming it as a solution for Detroit, as opposed to a federal bailout.
Paul and Kemp share further similarities. Paul is, of course, an ardent critic of the Federal Reserve and arbitrary monetary policy. This was also a crucial issue for Kemp who, besides Ron Paul, was the strongest anti-Fed and pro-gold standard Congressman in the 80s and 90s. On matters of taxation, both men have advocated for a flat tax policy, and while not identical their proposals are similar.
Perhaps most interesting is the shared interest of Paul and Kemp for a more “realist” foreign policy. Paul has stated that had he been in Congress at the time, he would have voted against starting the Iraq War. Kemp famously chastised the Clinton administration in the 90s for bombing Iraq and in 2003 publicly came out against the invasion. Neither Paul nor Kemp are isolationists, but they have wisely advocated the need for a restrained foreign policy. That wisdom is more apparent now than ever as Middle East destabilization leads to chaos.
In his appearances on the national stage (mainly his vice-presidential and presidential runs), Jack Kemp was popular among the general public as well as Republicans because he stayed true to principle while also thinking outside the proverbial box. It appears Rand Paul is carving a similar niche in today’s political world, and it will be fascinating to see if he can ride his approach all the way to the White House.