Last of the Compassionate Conservatives

Jack Kemp was a leader of men on the field and off it.

Republicans many times can’t get the words ‘equality of opportunity’ out of their mouths. Their lips do not form that way.

~ Jack Kemp

Whenever someone comes at me talking smack about how Obama ain’t this and Obama ain’t that and how there’s no way they would vote for him again, I listen and then ask them one question, “Who are you going to vote for instead?”

Shuts them right up.

The Republican field is made up of several flavors of the fruit from the Crazy Tree.  There’s no options there for anyone even hoping for a protest vote.   Between Perry, Romney, Bachmann, Gingrich, Cain and the rest of the munchkins there’s nothing for a disgruntled Obama voter to hang their hat on.   The G.O.P. has been assimilated by the radical nuttiness of a handful of loud extremists and reborn as the G.O.Tea Party.

It wasn’t always this way.  Once upon a time there were still such a thing as moderate Republicans who actually gave a damn about something other than making sure the wealthy and corporations didn’t pay too much in taxes.   Some of even could speak honestly about race without their tongues swelling in their mouths.

The last Republican whom I really admired was Jack Kemp. He honestly seemed to care about inequality and spoke about issues of poverty, racial discrimination and through programs such as the creation of inner city “enterprise zones” really put some muscle behind addressing these issues.

Kemp would show up on C-SPAN talking about how playing quarterback for the Buffalo Bills had opened his mind about race and what he wanted to do to make Dr. King’s dream a reality, I would listen and think, “Man, I wish THIS guy would run for president.”  In 1988 Kemp ended up as Bob Dole’s running mate against Bill Clinton but his heart didn’t seem to be in it and after Clinton crushed the Republican ticket Kemp faded into elder statesman/failed candidate status until his death in 2009.

Make no mistake:  Kemp was not a secret latte-slurping liberal.  He firmly believed in supply side economics and was as loyal a Republican as possible.  But speaking about race didn’t frighten him and Kemp offered solutions and uplift, not charity or dependency to African-Americans.

Sadly, I don’t see any Jack Kemps in the current crop of Republicans running for President. Jon Huntsman has the kind of quiet, non-scary, moderation that appeals to me, but he doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of winning the nomination. George Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative” but that was just a campaign phrase to him.  Kemp genuinely meant it and lived it, but that spirit seems to have been buried with him as today’s Republicans regard compassion as weakness.

I see Jon Huntsman as the same sort of  basically decent, moderate, mainstream Republican as Kemp was and one that has been largely hounded out of his own party. Huntsman is as silent as the rest of the field on race matters, but at least he doesn’t come off as an extremist.  I have no idea why Huntsman got in this race in the first place. He has no natural base in the Republican Party and is running in the single-digits along with the other bottom-feeders.

Huntsman’s campaign is being headed up by John Weaver, a veteran of John McCain’s campaigns, but I don’t see where this candidate scores a key early win. Not in Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina.  Huntsman is hoping a victory in Florida vaults him into the top-tier, but so did Rudy Giuliani in 2008 and it turned into his Waterloo.  Presidential campaigns are fueled by money and enthusiasm and I don’t see how Huntsman can generate enough of either to survive, let alone thrive.

Huntsman has Kemp's moderation, but not his vision.

The funny thing is Huntsman would probably fare better running as a moderate Democrat challenging Obama than as a Republican trying to win the nomination of a party that has no use for his kind anymore.

Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? If Black folks want Republicans to care about their issues I’m supposing more Black folks should be voting for Republicans.

So does that mean Blacks have to align their interests closer to those already prevalent in the Republican Party or does the Republican Party have to be more accommodating to the interests of Blacks?

“There really has not been a strong Republican message to either the poor or the African American community at large,” Kemp said.

What have Romney, Bachmann, Perry, Huntsman, Gingrich or Cain proposed or suggested to get African-American unemployment down and back to work? Something? Anything?

Because if they haven’t how do Blacks engage in discussions and strategy sessions with the GOP to make our priorities THEIR priorities as well? I don’t see leading Black Republicans such as Cain, or Congressmen Allen “I’m Harriet Tubman” West, or Tim Scott making this a priority of theirs. When Michael Steele tried to reach out to Black communities he got a chilly reception from them and a shrugged shoulders and a “why bother?” from his GOP peeps.

It makes no sense politically to be putting all of our clout in one basket. I’m not clear about how to convince the skeptics on both sides that its mutually beneficial for African-Americans to diversify their political portfolio.

Kemp was a self-described “bleeding heart conservative” whom had the GOP paid attention to would have been exactly the kind of Republican who not only only invited African-Americans to the party, he went looking for them.   With his death the Republicans have turned cold, indifferent and hostile to the interests of African-Americans and it’s a missed opportunity for both sides.

There’s a void waiting for someone to fill it, but while Huntsman possess Kemp’s moderation, he lacks his vision and his guts.

Maybe if there were at least one Jack Kemp in the Republican clown car Blacks might have a reason to give the GOP a second look.  Huntsman isn’t close to being in Kemp’s league, but he’s the closest thing the GOP has to a moderate.   Too bad they’re about to stomp him into a greasy spot.

"So Jack, they got anymore of you left in the GOP?"

Jon Huntsman: John McCain, Version 2.0

"I'm running for the one guy in Iowa who knows who the hell I am!"

Jon Huntsman is a former governor of Utah and President Obama’s former ambassador to China.  He is also part of a dying breed; a moderate Republican who doesn’t see government as the enemy of all that’s holy and favors civil unions for gays.  This week Huntsman announced he was running to replace his former boss as a candidate for the presidency.

TIME called Huntsman “the candidate the Democrats most fear.”

Huntsman is smart, charismatic, a deep thinker and believes in civility instead of confrontation.  The national media loves the guy, but they can’t make him the Republican nominee for president.   The voters in the Republican primaries next year can, but as most of them have never even heard of Jon Huntsman it remains to be seen if they will.

My best guess is they won’t.

Huntsman would be a formidable challenger for President Obama.   If he were running as a Democrat. But he’s not and it is unlikely he will ever get a chance to running as a Republican.

How does a moderate Republican who worked in the Obama Administration become the presidential candidate of a far Right GOP? I don’t see Huntsman’s path to the presidency. Reading a story in the Washington Post by Dana Milbank and it’s clear to me he’s a decent enough guy, but no way are the Tea Party types and other red meat Republicans going to get behind this guy.

"You're doing a remarkable job, boss, but I could do it better."

“Huntsman, who was until recently President Obama’s ambassador to China and yet who notably didn’t mention Obama by name in his kickoff speech, made a plea for “civility, humanity and respect” — the very qualities our political system seems to abhor.

I wish Huntsman luck in this noble pursuit, but the high road almost always leads to political oblivion. For Huntsman to maintain his course all the way to the Republican presidential nomination would turn politics on its head. More likely, he will join other decent men — Richard Lugar, Orrin Hatch — whose presidential campaigns were quickly forgotten.

Early signs suggest Huntsman will do no better. Polls show upward of six in 10 Republicans don’t know enough about him to form an opinion. In Iowa, where Huntsman has said he will not compete, one poll found total support for Huntsman of one — not 1 percent, but one person.”

It would be hard not to be viable when compared to some of the nitwits and dimwits and half-wits already splashing around in the GOP presidential pool. But electable? I’m not convinced yet. If Huntsman is skipping Iowa and depending on New Hampshire or South Carolina to make him a player, chances are he’ll just be a trivial contest question soon.

Huntsman is the media’s favorite Republican. The ability to sound like a rational and sane adult in a race full of Bachmanns, Cains and Santorums is easy..  It’s his decision to skip the Iowa caucuses that bafflles me.  You might think if Huntsman is so darn charismatic and likable that would play well in Iowa where retail politics can turn an unknown into a contender.

Will he take New Hampshire away from Mitt Romney? I guess that’s possible if he camps out there for x amount of months, but that’s a place where he won’t be favored. South Carolina? Fuhgeddaboutit. His kind of moderation won’t play well there.

Huntsman seems to be pinning his hopes on open primary states such as New Hampshire and Florida where Democrats and independents can cast a vote for him.   The question is why would they?   Simply because the New York Times thinks Huntsman is the kind of cool conservative who isn’t mean or a whack job doesn’t mean people are going to turn out in large enough numbers to deny Romney or some other red meat right-winger the GOP nomination.

No matter how little conservatives like Romney or the Mormon faith he and Huntsman share, they will hold their noses and back him before they do a former Obama appointee that has gone rogue.

Huntsman is a decent guy, but does he have a decent shot at the nomination?

Florida is where Huntsman has planted his campaign flag.  Then, so did another “moderate” in 2008,  Rudy Giuliani, and we saw how that played out.

Huntsman’s main constituency is the press. He’s become the latest version of “the liberal media’s favorite Republican.” This is a position that has been occupied by such folks as John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Christine Todd Whitman. Now it’s Huntsman’s turn to be adored by the media for his moderation and most likely rejected by his party for it.

Huntsman will be the gentlest of the Republicans in his criticisms of the president, but the letter he wrote calling Obama “a remarkable leader” is something Huntsman will be slammed with in every debate he shows up for. . I’m just not seeing how he wins the nomination and I haven’t seen a scenario presented that convinces me there is one.

Jon Huntsman is John McCain 2.0 but even less likely to get a chance at beating his former employer.