Jack Kemp: Stalwart of the Party of Lincoln

Jack Kemp will be remembered for his many roles in public life — as the quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, as U.S. Congressman (from Buffalo, NY), the HUD Secretary (under President George H. Bush), the Vice Presidential Candidate (running with Bob Dole in 1996), and very recently the co-chair of the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (with Henry Cisneros ).

In political life, Jack Kemp never stopped being the quarterback. He was an energetic debater. I have heard him make strong arguments in favor of free trade. And you could see how much he enjoyed knocking out his opponents in a debate. In October, he lent his weight to refuting the preposterous claim that the current financial/housing crisis was caused by the Community Reinvestment Act.

“Let me just make it very very clear — the Community Reinvestment Act…I’m so sick of people in my party saying that making loans to low-income people was ipso facto the cause of this breakdown of our financial institutions. Nonsense!”

At a conference organized by the Urban Land Institute, talking about the financial problems of the nation, Jack Kemp reiterated

The problems were caused by lenders who took advantage of the system. The claim that the CRA caused all these problems is nonsense.

His direct speech was what made him such an effective communicator. While the quarterback never left Jack Kemp, the stalwart of the party of Lincoln was already there in the all-pro quarterback — as a pro-football player, he supported the Black players’ boycott of New Orleans in 1965 in protest against the segregated cabs and nightclubs in that city. In political life, he was a consistent supporter of civil rights and affirmative action. He supported the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday legislation, and used his athletic prowess (figuratively) by twisting the arms of moderates and conservatives in his party to support the bill.

Jack Kemp provided effective leadership at a time when it was needed by co-chairing with Henry Cisneros the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (which presented its final report in December 2008).

Recently, after the 2008 Presidential election, Jack Kemp wrote:

The party of Lincoln needs to rethink and revisit its historic roots as a party of emancipation, liberation, civil rights and equality of opportunity for all.

A grateful nation salutes Jack Kemp for his vision of an inclusive America, his support for civil rights, fair housing and fair lending, and his commitment to the ideal of what the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass ought to be in the 21st century.

Nandinee Kutty
Dr. Nandinee K. Kutty is an economist and a policy consultant. She is an editor and contributor for the book Segregation: The Rising Costs for America (Routledge 2008). She is the author of numerous research papers published in peer-reviewed journals of economics and public policy. Dr. Kutty was formerly a professor at Cornell University. Her published research papers and op-eds are currently on the reading lists for courses taught at various universities in the U.S. Her e-mail address is nndkutty@aol.com.

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