Fred Carter, better known as Texas Fred the Zydeco Cowboy, was born and raised in Southeast Texas, where he became fascinated with zydeco and its origins. He shares the music he loves here in D.C. in the form of a local radio show, "The Trail Ride."
After its 2012 presidential election defeat, the Republican party is engaging in some serious soul-searching. Some say the GOP needs to look back at the legacy of figures like Rep. Jack Kemp, who crossed party lines and focused on poverty, housing and immigration reform. Others say the party needs to shift its focus to the future, as urban areas — which often lean Democratic — become increasingly important in political strategy. We explore what may come next for the party.
- Jill Homan Republican National Committeewoman for DC
- Jimmy Kemp President, Jack Kemp Foundation
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Mitt Romney took a shellacking in November's presidential election, and in the soul-searching that's followed for the Republican Party, there's been a big focus on how to appeal to minority voters, especially given the country's rapidly changing complexion.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut another demographic phenomenon has been less noted an urban tilt. Some of the country's bluest cities are now in the reddest states. And growing urban areas could soon turn some red states purple. As Republican strategists consider how to move forward, some say it would be wise to remember the legacy of Jack Kemp and his focus on poverty, housing and urban issues. Joining us to discuss all of these is Jill Homan. She is the Republican national committeewoman for the District of Columbia. Jill Homan, good to see you again.
MS. JILL HOMANGood to see you. Thank you for having me.
NNAMDII think we last saw each other in Tampa at the Republican National Convention.
HOMANYes, we did, and the temperature was a little bit warmer, but I'm not complaining today.
NNAMDII wish for those temperatures again. Also in studio with us is Jimmy Kemp. He is the president of the Jack Kemp Foundation. He is the son of the late congressman and former secretary of HUD, Jack Kemp. Jimmy Kemp, thank you for joining us.
MR. JIMMY KEMPPleasure, Kojo. It's a pleasure to be here.
NNAMDIYou too can join this conversation. 800-433-8850 is the number. Do you think Republicans have written off cities? Do you see a way of getting them back? 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or go to our website, kojoshow.org, ask a question or make a comment there. We've heard a lot about soul-searching in the Republican Party post-election. You are both a part of that process. Can you talk a little bit about your role and how you see it in helping the party moving forward? Starting with you, Jill Homan.
HOMANSure. So first, just to give a little bit background on what the Republican National Committee is doing, as a member of the RNC, I'm a part of that conversation, and right after the election, Chairman Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican Party, the RNC, put together a team to diagnose what went wrong and really looking at everything. Everything is on the table. And that is what is taking place right now.
HOMANAnd one of the things that I've been working on is presenting and laying out a case for why cities are important and why we need to focus on cities. And to this point, I've been very well received and -- in these conversations, and I'm looking forward to hearing what they have to say at the winter meeting, which is in 10 days, and also looking forward to when the report comes out, which I'm expecting this spring.
NNAMDIJimmy Kemp, what role have you've been playing in this...
NNAMDI...and the foundation, of course?
KEMPSure. I live here in the District, and I am a Republican. But I -- part of Jill's job is to get people like me to be more active, and I'm looking forward to working with Jill. From an organizational perspective, the Jack Kemp Foundation is not partisan. In fact, I think one of the distinctive characteristics that my father brought to politics was an ability to while being a Republican being able to work with people regardless of their party.
KEMPHe tried to embody a quote that he often used which is that you serve your party best by serving your country first, and at the foundation, we want to highlight the politicians of all stripes who genuinely first seek to serve their country. And we believe that, you know, once you established people of good will and who they are, then, you know, some of these real challenging intractable problems that we face can better be addressed, and we're hoping to be a part of that solution.
KEMPSo we don't have any specific Republican focus, so to speak, but certainly, dad being a Republican and me being a Republican, it's -- we're very involved in what the conservative principles should the ways that they should be applied today, and I think there are a lot of lessons for all politicians to learn from this last election.
NNAMDIWell, you began by saying that you live in the District of Columbia, and so that opens the door for me to tell a story about your father's residence...
NNAMDI...in the District of Columbia because he was a very strong supporter -- some people may not know this -- of voting rights for the District of Columbia. And during the time when there was a deal afoot in Congress...
NNAMDI...with Tom Davis...
NNAMDI...and Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District when there would be a seat for the District of Columbia in the House of Representatives, a vote in exchange for a vote. There was a congressman from Indiana, Dan Burton, a Republican who was -- who voted against that deal and when they were having the markup in committee, your dad using his privileges took a young African-American male over to Dan Burton and said, "Would you like this young man never to be able to grow up to be a congressman with a vote?"
NNAMDIAnd later, Dan Burton in that committee changed his vote. That was just how dedicated Jack Kemp was to the District of Columbia. But, Jill, you have been looking into the numbers, and you feel, as you said, that an urban strategy is essential to the future of the Republican Party. What have you've found when you look to those numbers?
HOMANSure. And so I think first one needs to look at where the population growth is, and right now, about 80 percent of the population lives in a metropolitan area. And then when you go back and look at cities, the growth in cities now surpasses that of the suburbs. And so you have now taking place the growth of cities. And so the question is: Who are -- who's in charge of the cities, and who's managing cities, and is this a problem for Republicans?
HOMANAnd we started to touch this -- touch on this. And when I looked at the top 25 just by way of examples, the top 25 cities in terms of population, they represent about 35 million people. Republicans held on just two mayoral positions, and one of which was a nonpartisan position, so theoretically one. So clearly, Republicans are not in positions of leadership in these cities which further leads to difficulties when you really look to try to run presidential campaigns when there's no organization or there's less organizations that are active in city Republican organizations, so it becomes a real issue.
HOMANAnd if I could just give one other quick statistic that I read, if you look at the top 50 most populated counties and the top 50 least populated counties, Obama won 98 percent of the top 50 most populated counties. Romney won 98 percent of the top 50 least populated counties. And I think making your point which is, are cities becoming more blue, and that's becoming a problem, especially in red states when you have, by way of example, Texas, the most -- the four most populated cities are blue, and they went Obama. And it's just going to become more and more an issue.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, that's the voice of Jill Homan. She is the Republican national committeewoman for the District of Columbia. She joins us in studio, along with Jimmy Kemp. He is president of the Jack Kemp Foundation and the son of the late Congress member -- the late aforementioned Congress member Jack Kemp. If you have questions or comments for us, call us at 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIWhat do you think Republicans need to do to make gains in urban areas and how about among minorities? 800-433-8850. Jimmy Kemp, I've already told a story about Jack Kemp, but you head up the Jack Kemp Foundation. And for those who are not familiar with your father's life or his work, can you tell us a little bit more about him, and why you think he's being invoked so often these days?
KEMPSure. Well, dad and I worked together at Kemp Partners during the last eight years of his life from 2001 to 2009, and actually, I was in that committee room when he went up to Dan Burton, and he and I worked on...
NNAMDIMark Plotkin told me that story.
KEMP...D.C. Vote together. Mark was -- he was correct. And when dad was sick -- he had melanoma -- he asked me to check into his papers. He had 400 boxes of papers from his career, starting with the Buffalo Bills in the '60s. And during his off-seasons, he interned in this -- for the governor of his home state, which is California -- he's from L.A. -- and went to this small college named Occidental.
KEMPAnd so we have his -- we had 400 boxes of papers from the early '60s through 2009, and as I -- I'd focused on business issues mostly with my father. He continued to be politically active, but I played in the Canadian Football League for eight years after I graduated from Wake Forest. And when I started working with him, my focus wasn't on politics. And when he asked me to get involved and look into his papers, I was struck at how profound and important the breadth of his work was, not for the Republican Party, but for the country and the world.
KEMPAnd so I got excited about it. He passed away shortly after he asked me to take care of his papers, and we started the Jack Kemp Foundation, and our mission is to develop, engage and recognize exceptional leaders who champion the American idea because we believe that's what dad cared most passionately about, the American idea which is really the human idea that each person is born with God-given natural rights to pursue life, liberty and happiness.
KEMPAnd this country is a great experiment toward that aim, certainly, an imperfect endeavor, but we're trying to build a more perfect union. And we think that my dad's contributions are worth remembering, but most importantly and what he would say if he were here is let's focus on who is making a difference today and who can lead the country and who can do it in a way that respects our great traditions.
KEMPAnd I think he, like all of us, would be frustrated that many of the challenges that we see on Capitol Hill today, so we are trying to be involved and engaged and look forward to what we can contribute.
NNAMDIYour organization honored two Republicans at an awards' dinner recently -- Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, both seen as possible presidential contenders in 2016. Paul Ryan has described himself as a disciple of Jack Kemp, and he's got a national platform now. What kind of vision is he talking about?
KEMPWell, Paul I think is able to communicate as clearly as anybody has what the American idea is, the principles on which our country was founded and that are worth fighting for. And Paul is concerned that most significantly that our spending is out of control. Now, it's interesting while Paul worked for my father Empower America, my dad didn't counsel him to focus on spending and cutting spending. My dad wanted everyone to focus on growth, how to unleash growth and opportunity...
NNAMDIThe supply side.
KEMP...and he was a supply-side economist. So Paul has, you know, in a column in The Wall Street Journal he explained where he differs from my father. But, look, it is a different time, and at the foundation, our goal is not to tell anybody what Jack Kemp would do today. That's an impossible question to answer. But Paul was inspired by that equality of opportunity message that dad advocated, but Paul has become convinced that, you know, our spending can't continue at the levels. And you just look at the demographics, and he's right.
KEMPWe're not replacing our population today, and our entitlement programs are -- we're facing challenge, and these are tough things to take on. And he's -- I applaud Paul Ryan. Last year, we gave him the Kemp Leadership Award. I applaud him for being willing to stick his political neck out and create a road map. And we need more leaders who are willing to do that from both parties so that then there can be a real conversation over ideas. And I'd say that that's one of the things that we wanted to emphasize with Paul.
NNAMDIJill Homan, a lot of people say the Republican Party has written off big urban areas, preferring to focus on their suburban and rural base. What is the danger of that for Republicans?
HOMANWell, I think it's pretty simple. And we just ran out of people to vote for us. So I think -- look, we haven't had -- as a Republican Party, we haven't had a decisive election since 1988. And what we've seen is that it's just been more and more difficult when one is looking at the presidential election to start put together -- putting together winning strategies if they do not include cities. And so really, a city can decide an election. Just take, for example, Illinois, in Cook County, and it's just a question of how significantly is the Republican going to lose in Chicago. And that will decide the election.
HOMANAnd so I'm sitting here as the eternal optimist. I'm always an optimist. And I heard a recent saying that I have to share with you, and it's going to be my new mantra. And that is there will always be a good ending. And if it's not good, then it's not the end. So that's my perspective. And -- but I say that in having spent a lot of time going through data and presenting ideas. And if I could just share with you very briefly, you know, I think, first, starting off with -- you have strategies and then you have tactics.
HOMANAnd so just briefly on the strategies, I think, first, we need to start with shoring up our base. We do have Republicans in cities, such as Jimmy and I, and I think we need to ask questions of why do we have Republicans in cities? And even if it's 8 percent, we need to understand that. And if we're starting to try to grow the party, wouldn't it make sense to try to influence the people around the 8 percent and then, just secondly, going to connecting with young people and young professionals, and thirdly, building bridges to minority residents in the cities? And then we can kind of get into tactics later on.
NNAMDIWell, there are a lot of people who want to join this conversation on the phone. So if you're trying to get through and the lines are busy, go to our website, kojoshow.org. Or send us an email to email@example.com. We're going to take a short break. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on urban strategies for the GOP. We're talking with Jimmy Kemp. He is president of the Jack Kemp Foundation. And Jill Homan is the Republican National Committeewoman for the District of Columbia. I'd like to go directly to the phones starting with Joe in Richmond, Va. Joe, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOEGood afternoon. Yeah, I'm a Republican here in the state of Virginia. I got two major issues I have with the Republican Party here as late. One of which is our current Gov. Bob McDonnell sticking his nose in the abortion issue, forcing women to get an ultrasound before they have some abortion procedures done. The Republican Party always supposedly prides itself on getting government out of people's lives, and they turn around and do the exact opposite.
JOEYou know, the whole abortion thing (unintelligible) law. Quit wasting time with nonsense like that and do something constructive. The other issue I have with the Republican Party -- this goes back to the Bush administration -- is this too big to fail with the bank bailouts. The banks should've been allowed to go bankrupt.
JOEThere's always the rich people that can either singularly or collectively pull their money, start a new organization and, you know, the economy would've kept right on going. But -- and that applies also to Mitt Romney. That's why I didn't for him. I voted for Obama. Not that he's, you know, anything to brag about, but Mitt Romney is nothing but Wall Street. And I'm tired of bailing out Wall Street, you know, the business community. I mean, it's ridiculous.
NNAMDIJoe, I'm glad you talked about rich people because, Jimmy Kemp, you point out that poverty and addressing the root causes has not been talked about by either party.
KEMPYeah. It's a problem, actually, to get to a point that Jill made, competing in cities -- having Republicans compete in cities is good for the nation because frankly, I believe the Democrats take much of the urban minority vote for granted. And that isn't good for anyone. And so Republicans really have an obligation, not only is it important to political sustainability, but it's the right thing to do because the Republicans believe that the message is applicable to all people, everywhere, and it's just a part of the process that has to take place.
KEMPYou got to compete for votes. You shouldn't look at, you know, oh, these people voted this way two years ago or four years ago or six years ago, and we're going to write them off. We're only going to focus on our people, and we're going to draw the lines more historically and get more believers on our side -- get a more, you know, feeling stronger about our side.
KEMPAnd poverty is one of the issues that really has not been addressed, and it was one of the key successes in my dad's career was to focus on public housing before he was HUD secretary. The reason he become HUD secretary is because he had worked here in D.C. with Kimi Gray from Kenilworth-Parkside on resident management.
NNAMDIThe late Kimi Gray.
KEMPYeah, the late Kimi Gray and the great Kimi Gray, who was a force of personality. And so we've got to address the root cases of poverty in this country and understand that government programs can often handicap those who want to climb out of poverty. And instead of just throwing crumbs down into the well of poverty, to use a crude analogy, we want more ladders down that well so they can climb out.
KEMPWe've got to ensure that there's equality of opportunity. Thankfully, the one -- if you noticed, the one speech that Paul Ryan gave during the campaign, other than the convention speech, was in Cleveland, Ohio, and he was addressing the root causes of poverty and his vision for what to do about it. And I don't think that either President Obama or Vice President Biden said much if anything about it.
KEMPBut I think the Romney campaign should have done much more to promote and say, look, we do care and that 47 percent comment was horrible. It shouldn't have ever come out of his lips, and they should have used Paul's record and his passion on the issue more effectively so.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Joe. We move on now to Miriam in Arlington, Va. Miriam, your turn.
MIRIAMHi, Kojo. How are you? I appreciate being involved in the conversation. I'm a big party member here in the state of Virginia, and we did have a discussion about the loss of the Republic Party in the GOP, and we talked about potential ideas because what we really want to see is advancement, sustainability, growth and, of course, opportunity.
MIRIAMAnd one of the areas where we really think that the GOP could focus and not walk away from their values is child care. It's a fundamental core fact that a lot of women, even women who could be employed in professional positions, aren't able to get those jobs because they can't afford to go to work. And so I think that broadening your base, considering that in urban cities, two parents work but sometimes not able to take these kinds of jobs that can really boost them out of poverty.
MIRIAMWe should consider supporting our fundamental values, our religious values and saying, yes, we are encouraging you to, you know, maintain life at the moment of conception but recognize that we, as a society, are taking responsibility for those children when they come into the world. And therefore, yes, you will have to work, but we will make sure that those children who we value their lives from conception will be in a good situation, able to grow up safe and educated.
NNAMDIWell, let's hear what Jill Homan has to say about that.
HOMANI -- well, I think it, in my view, it start first as a local party going in to communities and engaging with the residents. And I think -- and I would even say that in many cities -- well, let me just speak to D.C. It's hard to have those relationships, and I don't know if we have many of those relationships. So I think it starts first with going in and seeing what are -- which is, Miriam, to you point, what are the obstacles to an individual, a young woman working? And is the obstacle child care? Is the obstacle education?
HOMANBecause I would actually argue that so many of these issues are kind of layered on one another. I would add in transportation. I would add in affordable housing. And I think, until we are at a situation, especially in Washington, D.C., where we have more jobs that are closer to the neighborhood, closer to the residents, especially in the lower-income area, it's really hard to encourage and help upward mobility if people will have to take, you know, two or three buses and spend two hours commuting to work.
HOMANSo child care is not just the issue. So I think, again, it starts with really being present and showing up and understanding the issues and obstacles, not from a building on, you know, just from our headquarters but rather from the neighborhoods.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Miriam. We got an email from Joe in Colonial Beach, Va., who writes, "Kemp was definitely influenced by his football-playing days with African-Americans. He used his experience as well. Where does a local Republican like Ron Moten, formally of Peaceaholics, fit into the urban strategy they are talking about?" And I have a sneaking suspicion that Ron on line five in Washington, D.C., just might be Ron Moten. Is that you, Ron?
MR. RONALD MOTENYes, sir.
NNAMDIIndeed, this is Ron Moten, the co-founder of Peaceaholics who ran as a Republican in the race in Ward 7. Ron, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MOTENFirst of all, I like to say hello to the two panelists that you have, Mr. Kemp, who's like a mentor to me who I really admire his father's work, and Jill Homan, who I did a lot of work with during my campaign with the D.C. (word?). One of the things that I want to bring to light is that Jill (unintelligible) is how when she went out into the community with me, how receptive the people were to my platform and know that I was a Republican.
MOTENBut they were very receptive to the ideology of our civil rights Republican and how amazed they were when we did events in a community, like at Denny's when we had a packed house during Black History Month, educating African-Americans on the Republican Party, on the history of the party. And, secondly, Mr. Kemp, you're exactly right.
MOTENYou know, a lot of Republicans got mad at me because I said I wasn't supporting Romney because I thought he was very divisive. But I wasn't supporting Obama either. I wrote in Chris Christie 'cause we want to satisfy my needs in D.C. And I think that if we get more people speaking on the issue and just being truthful that we can get people in the party. I mean, what do you all think about that?
HOMANI -- and I'm glad Ron called in, and Ron's a friend. And actually, Ron's name came up today when Jimmy and I were talking. And I just enjoy so much of working with Ron and in talking with him. And for me, it's always an education because I've had different life experiences than Ron. And there's issues that Ron brings up that I honestly were not aware of. And, for example, issues, we're talking about affordable housing and issues that ex-offenders have with securing affordable housing.
HOMANYes. Yes. So I really appreciate the work that Ron is doing, and we just need to get 10 more Rons from a Republican tactical perspective to do the work in the communities and really be able to have conversations of what it means to be a Republican. And from Ron's perspective, I love that he talks about being a civil rights Republican and really embracing our heritage and being able to talk about that probably. So...
NNAMDIWell, I'm glad you called, Ron Moten. Thank you very much for your call. Your father, Jack Kemp, once told reporters, "I wasn't there with Rosa Parks or Dr. King or John Lewis, but I'm here now, and I'm going to yell from the rooftops about what we need to do." As a congressman and a secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the first President Bush, Jack Kemp worked hard to build an urban agenda for the Republican Party. Can you talk a little bit about that?
KEMPWell, when I referred to Kimi Gray and Jill just talked about affordable housing, one of the important principles in thinking about any issue is to understand that we live in a dynamic, not a static, world. You make a decision, and there are ramifications that you couldn't have predicted. Yet too often, sitting in ivory towers or sitting in offices, you know, legislator's offices, you have people who are thinking, looking at statistics, thinking from a static mentality about how much revenue you can raise, what you can do.
KEMPAnd my dad understood that the greatest capital we have in this country is human capital, and that we had -- we'd banished the talent of our inner cities to effectively an underground economy -- a cash economy -- and that we got -- we have to bring them above ground, and you've got to provide opportunity. You got to deal with housing challenges. And then another key issue that should be a part of an urban agenda, Kojo, is enterprise zones.
KEMPPresident Clinton called it empowerment zones, but looking at a place -- let's take -- D.C. gives us plenty of examples, but look at Detroit right now. You had a Democratic congressman, Hanson Clark, who unfortunately lost his election, but he wanted to bring an enterprise in zone -- in Detroit where you zero out the capital gains around a depressed area in Detroit and you attract investment capital that will enable human capital to be unleashed.
KEMPAnd there are tons of people doing great stuff in Detroit, but we -- the government should be in the position of trying to decrease the obstacles to success. And enterprise zones is one piece of the puzzle that it hasn't been perfectly applied but look at Harlem. Harlem has had success with their empowerment zone that President Clinton pushed through. And President Clinton's office is in Harlem, and he's enjoying the benefits of that. But we need a lot more people in our cities to benefit from ideas like that.
KEMPBut that's what we need our unique ideas. One last thing just on that point, another -- Jill mentioned that she and I are D.C. Republicans, and then we had Ron Moten called. There are more than people think. A lot of people don't register as Republicans when they come to D.C. 'cause they think that it's a lost cause. If you're a Republican, you're living in D.C., register. But, secondly, there's a guy named Bob Woodson who's been running for the Senate for a neighboring enterprise for many years.
KEMPAnd Bob -- Ron or Jill mentioned, ex-offenders, there's a National Homecomers Academy in Ivy City, D.C. And this homecomers academy is a place where guys are -- and women who are coming out of prison, they can get training and work constructively in the community. And our government has got to make people in those situations -- in those homecoming situations, who want to generate positive difference in their lives, we got to give them opportunities.
NNAMDIIt's what Bob Woodson has been doing for the last more than three decades.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to join the conversation, call us at 800-433-8850, or send email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is Charles in Washington, D.C. Charles, your turn.
CHARLESYes. Hi, Kojo. Kojo, I want to take a very simplistic view and say that there is one global problem and that is the common denominator and it's jobs. There are two divergent developments. One is the growing population and the need for employment. Everything comes down to employment, and that means people who are not skilled as well as with every other skill. And on the other hand, we have the effect of technology eliminating jobs, especially at the lower end.
CHARLESCaterpillars and the -- Caterpillar and John Deere are great, but how many people does that put out of a physical laboring job that might help? All you got to do is visit CVS or a parking lot and you'll see that the clerks are no longer there. They want you to check out. Verizon, our greatest communications company...
NNAMDIWell, what are you suggesting, Charles? That we take a step back in time, or are you trying to find an alternative way to create jobs?
CHARLESNo. I'm saying that it is impossible to solve these problems except on the margins because there is no authority that's large enough or no agreement that is strategic enough to look at this problem, and I'm sorry to say I am very much depressed by that.
NNAMDIWell, let me address that issue after we come back because I suspect that one of the reasons that people like you feel that way is that you have given up some hope for real bipartisanship in the legislative bodies in the nation in general and in the Congress of the United States in particular. I'll ask our panelists what they see in the future for the possibilities of bipartisanship. 800-433-8850. Charles, thank you for your call. You, too, can call us or send email to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on urban strategies for the GOP. We're talking with Jill Homan, Republican National Committeewoman for the District of Columbia, and Jimmy Kemp, president of the Jack Kemp Foundation. Jimmy Kemp is the son of the late Congressman and football player Jack Kemp. You can call us at 800-433-8850. Jimmy, you're associated with the Bipartisan Policy Center.
NNAMDIA lot of people say bipartisanship is dead. When Sen. Olympia Snowe stepped down in December, she had some criticism for those who have moved to the extremes on so many issues. Is there room for the kind of conservative that your father was in today's political atmosphere, a man who, from time to time, as you pointed out, voted, as he said, in the interest of his country rather than in the interest of his party? How do we, if possible, develop that again?
KEMPWell, look, I don't know that I -- there's no magic bullet, and, as you said previously, on a different subject and to a different color. We're not going to go backwards. We're not going to return to some golden age. So we need courageous leaders who can think about solutions. I will just share a tidbit of information from my own youth. I grew up in Bethesda, Md. My father was a congressman from Western New York. But when he was elected in 1970 and moved down here in 1971, he moved the family down here because the job was in Washington, D.C.
KEMPAnd, unfortunately, in the '90s, the Republicans decided that a successful strategy and tactic would be to characterize D.C. as an evil, corrupting place. Keep your families in the District, new Republican members in this new Republican majority, starting in '94. And don't worry. When you come in, you'll have three days in D.C. We'll tell you what to do. And what ended up happening, Kojo, is that you lost some of the comity, the relationships -- the comity, not comedy...
KEMP...and certainly we've lost the comedy today. But there's a lack of personal relationships on the Hill between senators, congressmen, Republicans, Democrats, I think, between the White House and Capitol Hill. And you saw that in, you know -- I'm thankful that Vice President Biden had the relationships that he had so that they could at least get something done, and we should have never been in this position in the first place.
KEMPBut is there hope? Yes, there is, because there are good people who understand that there's a problem and who want to work across the aisle. And, you know, I do know Congressman Ryan well, and he worked with Ron Wyden to come up with a bipartisan budget solution. And the political realities, Kojo, are that if no one can work with anyone on the other side, ultimately, I think, those people will be voted out.
KEMPAnd the final thing I'd say is the responsibility is our own. You're a citizen. You have got to pay attention to what's going on, and don't think that the problem is somebody else's representative or senator. You need to hold your senator and representative accountable for their willingness to not do everything perfectly, but to do the job, which is here in D.C., and not demand that they should be in the District all the time, focusing on your little issue. But the job is here.
NNAMDIGo ahead, please.
HOMANOh, I was just going to build on Jimmy's point of bipartisanship, and I truly believe that the vast majority of Americans really want our local and national legislators to be able to work together. And I'm actually from a bipartisan family. My sister is a Democrat, though I'd like to say that she hasn't become a Republican yet, but she is a Democrat. And I think we need to figure out, especially on a local level, how we can work together because so many of these issues aren't necessarily partisan.
HOMANAnd just to give you one quick example, the D.C. Republican Party has been lobbying on an issue that the Democratic Party is very much in favor of, and that's actually budget autonomy. And we -- the, you know, Republicans control the House, and so we have folks like the committeeman now, Bob Kabel, and Patrick Mara, who are going to the Hill and lobbying members who are in charge and oversee committees who oversee those issues. So those are opportunities that we can seek out to work together, especially as it relates to urban issues.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Renee in D.C. that will allow you to talk a little bit more about this. Renee says, "Jack Kemp was a conservative but had broad respect among people of color and urban voters because he gave the impression that he was trying to help. How do your guests think that they can get the larger GOP -- not only candidates, but also voters and conservative thought leaders -- to address the issues of urban America and do so without the existing sense of hostility?"
NNAMDIJill, you say that one way to connect with neighborhoods is to focus on issues and on policies that affect everyone. Talk about some of what you're doing right here in that regard.
HOMANWell, I think Ron Moten, who called in, made a great point of holding forums. And one of the forums that we co-hosted together was a forum during Black History Month to talk about the policies as it relates to economic development of the Republican Party, and really it created a forum for us to start to have conversations and build relationships. But I think we need, as a party, to think creatively about how we can do that.
HOMANAnd I think, you know, tactically, why not create mentor opportunities from our K Street businesses to our businesses in the neighborhoods and, you know, talk about, you know, cash flow or whatever and balance sheet and managing balance sheet and create those opportunities? And I think we need to lead at the local level. And Jimmy mentioned leaders and community leaders.
HOMANAnd I think as a local party, finding these community leaders who are doing things that worked and bringing our national leaders to point that out and figuring out what the model is that we can replicate because I truly believe that, you know, as we're talking about that our national party needs a successful model of an urban Republican Party.
NNAMDIA lot of people see affordable housing in crisis in places like D.C., an issue, Jimmy, that your father focused on, of course. How do you see that fitting into this discussion?
KEMPWell, you mentioned the Bipartisan Policy Center which has a housing commission. That's where they connected us in. And so you've got, let's see, Sen. Mel Martinez, Sen. George Mitchell, Secretary Henry Cisneros, who is HUD secretary after my father, and Sen. Kit Bond have led this housing commission. And they're going to be putting out a report, and a large chunk of it is addressing affordable housing. One of the commission members is Ron Terwilliger, who is with the Trammell Crow.
KEMPBut Ron and the Urban Land Institute have focused on affordable housing. Kojo, I don't have the answer. I just know that, first of all, you've got to show that you care. People don't care how much you know until they know that you care. So one issue is that you've got to show up. You've got to be willing to talk about these challenges. And one of the things that Jill mentioned that we know, transportation is a huge component of it.
KEMPAnd Republicans, in my opinion, have got to present a plan on what to do about our infrastructure. Our infrastructure is aging, and you don't hear enough about what the Republican plan for the infrastructure in our country is. And, you know, that's going to require some government spending. And we've got these issues that seem to be taboo, but that we've -- we've got to get pass that and be willing to talk about what the options are, you know.
KEMPYou got -- is the gas tax the answer? I'm not saying it is answer, but you got to be willing to talk about solutions and not just stick to your, you know, your talking points on -- regardless of what you're side on.
NNAMDIHere is Kathleen in Sterling, Va. Kathleen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATHLEENHello, Kojo. My question is I always hear from Republicans, you know, on the news talking about how they have to change their rhetoric. And even a lot of what your guests are saying has -- except for Mr. Kemp's son -- is -- are talking about changing the rhetoric and not actually challenging the policy. The Republican Party has thrown out all of the moderates, and they are so far to the right that they are unrecognizable to most American citizens.
NNAMDIWell, I suspect our guests are talking about how to change that, Kathleen. What you seem to be suggesting is, yes, we hear you talking -- and I'll put this question to Jill Homan -- but who's listening?
HOMANWell, I think I would ask in terms of, you know, when you say too far to the right, I would ask, you know, on what issue? Are we talking social issues? Are we talking economic issues? Are we talking defense issues?
NNAMDILet's talk immigration, which you've -- are both obviously interested in. The Republican Party did not get a lot of votes from people who feel that there needs to be some comprehensive immigration reform because they seem to have come across as the party of no. What do you think the Republican Party should be doing on immigration?
HOMANWell, I think, just more broadly, if I could make one point as it relates to kind of going back to Kathleen's point. And that is one of -- something that I noticed in this past election, which I found very interesting, is President Obama was able to assemble a diverse group of coalitions who many of whom had competing views on issues. And, you know, you can take gay marriage, you can take immigration. And what was interesting is that these groups were able to say, hey, I don't agree with the president on this 20 percent issue, but I agree with him on 80 percent of everything else.
HOMANAnd that 20 percent differed across each constituency, and the net result was a win. And I think, you know, I subscribed to the view and that's -- I believe President Reagan that if you agree with me 80 percent of the time, you're my friend. And I think, you know, as we're contemplating this urban strategy and as we're contemplating, you know, Kathleen's point of our policies, the question is, can our constituencies come to the conclusion that, you know what, the 20 percent that this Republican congressman disagrees with me, that's OK.
HOMANAnd that -- I'm OK with, you know, the bulk, since we agree with each other, 80 percent of the time, and I think if we're able to do that as a party, then I think we're able to assemble diverse groups of coalitions who -- they may not agree with us on immigration or they may agree with us on the immigration, but the net result will be a net gain of voters. And so that's just my view on that.
NNAMDIBut do you think that the Republican Party needs to change its fundamental approach to immigration if it is to win votes?
KEMPYes. Yes. Yes.
NNAMDIIn what way?
KEMPYou -- this can't be a country that thinks we've got to hunker down and just protect our own and save our own. That's not what made this country great. This is a nation of immigrants, and it has been wrong for anybody in the political realm, whether they're Republican or Democrat, to only focus on locking down the border, building a wall and we're going to keep them out. And there hasn't be a -- there's hasn't been immigration reform despite the fact that President Bush put forward a plan but couldn't get support for it.
KEMPBut there has to be something done about guest workers. You've got to, you know, companies are having a really difficult time bringing in qualified candidates who will come over here for school but then -- and they take advantage of our universities, but then we can't get them to stay. And we've got to make it easier for companies to attract talent and keep talent here. So, look, there needs to be immigration reform. And I do know that Sen. Rubio is -- cares deeply about this. He obviously comes from an immigrant family.
KEMPAnd there are people who agree with my dad's position back in the '90s when Prop 187 came out in California, and Kemp and Bennett came out loudly against it. Now, neither of them were in office at the time, but there were Republican voices who took a look of hits. But you need people who are willing to take hits for a cause, and the cause of this country is much larger than, you know, taking a position that we just need to keep everybody out.
KEMPAnd one last thing on this, Kojo. We -- at the Kemp Foundation, we have a Kemp forum program that's a workshop for ideas. And we're doing a Kemp forum on immigration. And that's one of the things that we'll be rolling out in short order. But Sen. Rubio and others will -- have expressed an interest in being involved so we're looking forward to rolling that out.
NNAMDIJill, underscoring the point you made, even though we're running out of time, that you can agree with 80 percent. You don't have to agree with everything. You are an openly gay woman living in Washington, D.C., which is a very blue city. Are people ever surprised to learn that you're a Republican?
HOMANYes. And just so you know, it is my partner's birthday today and...
HOMANYeah. And because I care about you, Kojo, I'm here with you and not taking her out to lunch so...
NNAMDIA dinner will work.
HOMANWell, you know, I think they are. But it's, you know, it's just another data point. I'm also, you know, left handed, and there's things that, you know, it's just a data point. But I think it's just -- it gives me a perspective and also just another way to relate to people as, you know, I'm talking to the voters here.
NNAMDIJill Homan is the Republican National Committeewoman for the District of Columbia. Thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you.
HOMANOh, thank you very much for having me.
NNAMDIJimmy Kemp is president of the Jack Kemp Foundation. Jimmy, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you.
KEMPThanks for having me.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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