He was known for his dedication to supply-side economics and ushering in an entirely new era for the GOP.
It is hard now to imagine the intramural fights that rent the Republicans in the late 1970s and early 1980s over tax policy. Following the economic troubles of the mid and late 1970s, a group of outspoken Republicans championed an array of tax cuts to stimulate the economy as the Carter era ended and the Reagan era approached. (See TIME’s photos: Ronald Reagan Remembered)
More than anyone else it was Kemp, starting in the late 1970s as a congressman from Buffalo, who led the crusade for a series of specific proposals to cut income tax rates that formed the basis of measures that were both adopted by candidate Reagan in the 1980 race and then enacted during the Regan presidency that followed. Kemp’s tax rate cutting crusade culminated in a massive reform of the tax code in 1986 that members of both parties supported.
Tax cuts aside, what most people in my generation know Kemp for is his run as Bob Dole’s VP in 1996 since that’s when we were first allowed to vote…
In 1996, another longtime rival, Kansas Senator Robert Dole, tapped Kemp to be his running mate in his quest for the White House against incumbent President Bill Clinton. Dole was hoping to unify his divided party by choosing the supply sider to round out the ticket. “Get me the quarterback,” Dole told his campaign manager, Scott Reed, in a move that surprised many in the party. The former Buffalo Bills quarterback was never an easy political partner. During the Dole campaign, Kemp sometimes performed as if he was at the top of the ticket.
Rest in peace Mr. Kemp.