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July 27th, 2017

Insight

Trump and Ryan as avatars of Gingrich and Kemp

Albert Hunt

By Albert Hunt

Published May 16, 2016

  Trump and Ryan as avatars of Gingrich and Kemp

Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan will eventually patch together a rapprochement.

It won't be real, but not because of their well-established substantive differences on trade, immigration or entitlements. After all, Trump seems flexible on any and all issues; hard-core principles are not an obstacle.

But the two Republican leaders have profoundly different approaches to politics: On one side, an optimistic conservatism that reaches out and is inclusive; on the other, one that seeks to energize an angry and alienated conservative base, including by playing to racial and ethnic fears.

The Trump-Ryan schism can be best understood by looking at two proxies: former Congressman Jack Kemp, who was Ryan's mentor and political role model, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is being considered as Trump's running mate.

Gingrich recently claimed that Trump "is a little bit like Jack Kemp, but so much bigger a figure." There may be an argument about the latter part, but almost no one who was close to Kemp believes the real estate tycoon is anything like him.

This schism has little to do with ideology. Kemp, who was the 1996 Republican vice-presidential nominee and died in 2009, was no liberal; he never met a tax he didn't want to cut or eliminate and until his later years was a foreign policy hawk. But he had a much more inclusive view of conservatism than many of his colleagues.

The contrasts between the views of Kemp and Gingrich on touchstone issues over the years illustrates why Trump and Ryan will never be soulmates.

In 1994, Kemp campaigned against California's Proposition 187, a Republican-led initiative that barred undocumented immigrants from using public services, including education. Gingrich said he probably would have voted for it. The measure passed but it alienated the state's fast-growing Hispanic population and Democrats have dominated California politics ever since.

Kemp, a former professional football player, played with black teammates, marched in civil rights protests and forged friendly alliances with a number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Gingrich had stormy relations with most members of that caucus, including his fellow Georgia lawmaker, John Lewis.

The contrast is equally striking when it comes to attitudes toward Muslims. After Sept. 11, Kemp said he supported a "war" against terrorism but stressed that it was not a war against Muslims.

Gingrich, like Trump, sees danger in Islam. He fiercely opposed a proposal to build a multicultural center and mosque in downtown Manhattan near the World Trade Center. "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia," he said.

The former speaker once tried to persuade New Jersey Governor Chris Christie not to appoint a Muslim judge, warning against the dangers of Sharia law. Christie appointed the judge in 2011 anyway, saying the concern over Sharia law was bogus.


There even is a pronounced Kemp-Gingrich split that mirrors Ryan and Trump, over Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of most Republicans these days. Kemp worked for Reagan when he was governor of California, helped convert him to supply-side economics and was close to him during his presidency.

When Gingrich ran for president in 2012 he frequently claimed an association with Reagan, even though they had little contact and the lawmaker often criticized the president.

Ryan is not a carbon copy of his mentor. Kemp, who never worried much about budget deficits, would have recoiled at some of the spending cuts to social services that the Wisconsin lawmaker has proposed. And as speaker, Ryan was slow to follow Kemp's model in reaching out to the poor.

But Ryan does practice the politics of opportunity and inclusion. By contrast, Trump, and often Gingrich, capitalize on anger and fear and are willing to play the race card. It has served them well.

This split is one that cannot easily be negotiated.

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Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was formerly the executive editor of Bloomberg News, directing coverage of the Washington bureau. Hunt hosts the weekly television show "Political Capital with Al Hunt." In his four decades at the Wall Street Journal, he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor, and wrote the weekly column "Politics & People." Hunt also directed the Journal's polls, was president of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund and a board member of the Ottaway community newspapers. He was a panelist on the CNN programs "The Capital Gang" and "Novak, Hunt & Shields." He is co-author of books on U.S. elections by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution.


Previously:
05/09/16: Don't disrespect the vice presidency
04/28/16:All the anti-Trump Republicans have
04/26/16: Dems' divisions will need healing, too
04/21/16: Candidates, please stop whining
04/19/16: 2016's Other Big Question Mark
04/14/16: Rivals should be in cahoots to stump Trump
03/07/16: Hillary's hubris still could trip her
02/24/16: Free trade is bipartisan target in 2016 election
02/19/16: On Planet Clinton, where everyone's a critic
02/09/16: Questions for Bernie Sanders' establishment guy
02/03/16: From steadfast Iowa to contrarian New Hampshire
02/01/16: Bush's journey from front-runner to straggler
01/27/16: Another election, more phony promises on taxes
01/19/16: How Cruz supporters differ from Trump fans
12/23/15: Why Trump and Cruz aren't Forbes or Cain
12/21/15: Speaker Ryan sails through the easy part
11/25/15: As the GOP candidates emerge Hillary's weaknesses will be revealed
11/05/15: OK, candidates: Ask the questions yourselves. Seriously
10/28/15: Imagine an endgame of Cruz vs. Rubio
10/26/15:Ted Cruz has a Ben Carson problem in Iowa
10/20/15: Will Paul Ryan follow James Polk's playbook?
10/20/15: If only Trey Gowdy could meet with Sam Ervin
10/13/15: Voters don't like revisiting the trials and tribulations of Clintonland --- but that doesn't mean Hillary can't win
09/23/15: Why Jimmy Carter couldn't win the South today
09/17/15: Gov. John Kasich's standout record in Ohio
09/03/15: Republicans chart 4 paths to stopping Trump
08/31/15: Here's how Biden-Warren sort of makes sense
08/28/15:Trump upends New Hampshire's substantive tradition
08/26/15:Jeb Bush is hugging the wrong president George
08/24/15: Underestimating Ted Cruz? That's a mistake
08/19/15: US holds steady in a world of economic trouble
08/12/15: Who will capture Iowa conservatives after Trump?
08/10/15: Debate fireworks that won’t make much impact
07/29/15: A plea for conservatives to speak from the heart
07/09/15: Ex-Im Bank's undeserved rap for crony capitalism
06/24/15: All presidential candidates should be in debates
06/03/15: Foreign policy traps await Republicans and Hillary
06/01/15: It's small stuff that wrecks presidential runs
02/04/15: Can Walker be president without a college degree?

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