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Jack Kemp represented politics as they should be
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Editor, Jack Kemp is proof that professional football huddles can produce far more than bruises.
He was a happy warrior in the service of individualism and opportunity, two things we don’t often see lumped together.
I first met him in the 1990s when the GOP was still a party with a somewhat moderate tilt whose rising conservative tide included Kemp, a crossover star if ever there was one.
After a lifetime of independence, he, along with President George H.W. Bush and mighty moderates like Bob Dole, Mark Hatfield and others, convinced me that the Republicans were the better choice in America’s two-party system.
The “high tech lynching” of Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation showed me even more folks whose thoughts resembled mine.
Jack Kemp was an ambassador of “bleeding heart conservatism” in an era of racially coded buzzwords like “welfare queen” that served to further polarize communities of color from the party whose earlier incarnation ironically achieved the greatest civil rights victory to date, the ending of American slavery by force of arms.
He knew the message of individualism and ownership was the last mental chain to be broken in the minds and realities of many in the inner cities and rural areas who felt they just couldn’t suit up and play on the field of dreams like everybody else.
Some, Kemp included, attributed this open-mindedness to his pro-football experiences living, playing, winning and losing in close proximity to black men from around the country at a time when some states wouldn’t even allow him to stay in the same hotel with fellow white athletes.    
He bridged the white gap and the black divide with passion and a relentless understanding that the individual, beneath his cosmetic exterior and experiences, is a child of God and therefore has only the limits he places on himself.
While always self-identified as a conservative, he nonetheless took his kinsmen to task for shortsightedness on racial issues and bluntly called a spade a spade when his peers were obviously racist in their statements and actions.
A truly “big tent” Republican, Jack Kemp isn’t merely symbolic of a more inclusive Republican past; he’s a stellar example of what the future GOP must become in order to compete nationally.
There is a broad and divisive line drawn in America between those who embrace either party or swing voters who choose candidates over one particular partisan brand.
Race and region have instituted an unhealthy schism where huge numbers of folks affiliate based upon zip codes and color instead of platforms and philosophy.
Here’s one of my favorite examples of this destructive dynamic:
If the Democrats being a “black” party somehow limit their effectiveness (an argument made harder after the Obama victory), then a “white” Republican party shares the same assessment.
Multi-ethnic, multi-ideological alliances are what political parties ideally should be, not robotic armies marching slowly to the beat of one drum with the partisan version of excommunication awaiting those who dare venture out on their own.
Each wing within these groups should debate over what they offer collectively and shouldn’t exclude dissenting voices in favor of narrow litmus tests.
Jack Kemp told his party and the nation that Republicans can’t succeed being racist or so focused on wealth for the wealthy that it denies opportunities for all income brackets to become wealthy.
I’m proud I am on his political team. Now it’s up to the rest of us not to fumble the ball he carried so well for so long.

Nadra Enzi, aka Capt. Black, promotes crime prevention and
self-development with his Street Team of America Concerned Citizens Group.
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