Dole-Kemp loom large over GOP again

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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It was an unlikely pairing — the 1996 presidential ticket that teamed moderate Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and conservative Rep. Jack Kemp — in an ill-fated attempt to unseat President Bill Clinton.

Now, on the heels of another Republican loss to another Democratic incumbent, the two rivals-turned-partners are once again symbolically present — representing both the challenges and triumphs of the modern GOP.

On Tuesday, Dole sat in a wheelchair on the senate floor, as Republicans defeated a UN treaty to ban discrimination against people with disabilities.

Republicans had decent arguments for opposing it. After all, we already have an Americans With Disabilities Act — why open the door to even the potential of UN encroachment on American sovereignty?

And besides, should a lame duck session be used to pass a treaty?

Regardless of the merits, the optics only seemed to reinforce the notion that the GOP is an uncompassionate party that cares little about the disadvantaged.

The fact that Dole was on hand for the defeat only made things look worse.

But on Tuesday night, however, Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio addressed the Jack Kemp Foundation.

Rep. Kemp was known many things, including convincing Ronald Reagan to become a supply-sider. But he was also considered a “bleeding-heart conservative” who cared deeply about the poor.

Ryan and Rubio both used the opportunity to present a modern, compassionate, vision for the future of the GOP. As The Hill reports,

Ryan said that Kemp, for whom he worked and considers a mentor, “hated the idea that any part of America could be written off” and argued that the Republican Party needs “a vision for bringing opportunity into every life – one that promotes strong families, secure livelihoods, and an equal chance for every American to fulfill their highest aspirations for themselves and their children.

Sixteen years after losing a presidential race — for one day, at least — Bob Dole and Jack Kemp were more relevant than ever. Who would have guessed it?

Matt K. Lewis