Throughout my adult life, no American journalist has influenced my views more than George Will.
He and I have basically the same ideological roots. We both embrace classical conservatism, as distinguished from Trumpist parafascist reactionary populism, which isn’t conservatism at all.
The conservatism of Will and me is a blend of the Edmund Burke emphasis on maintenance of institutions, the Adam Smith adherence to free markets, the John Locke defense of religious toleration and property rights, and the John Stuart Mill defense of the individual’s right to be left alone by government regarding his personal behavior. In foreign affairs, he and I are both fervent anti-totalitarians and supporters of Israel. We both basically follow the conservative internationalist philosophy of Ronald Reagan, as distinguished from the Trumpian advocacy of isolationist, Know-Nothing “America First” policies.
Will and I are both vehement adversaries of Donald Trump. So it should surprise nobody that I am in fervent agreement with his Washington Post column, published Monday, June 1, 2020 entitled, “Trump must be removed. So must his congressional enablers.”
In the column, Will advocates the defeat of Trump and the election of a Democratic-controlled House and Senate, referring to Republican incumbents as Trump’s enablers. In discussing the current Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate, he says the following:
Senate Republicans must be routed, as condign punishment for their Vichyite collaboration, leaving the Republican remnant to wonder: Was it sensible to sacrifice dignity, such as it ever was, and to shed principles, if convictions so easily jettisoned could be dignified as principles, for . . . what?
Will’s judgment is reinforced by the reaction of the Republican Senators to the disgraceful parafascist suppression of civil liberties by Trump himself on Monday night outside the White House, when he had peaceful protestors gassed in order to give himself a photo opportunity of his walk to St. John’s Church across the street. With few exceptions the Republican US Senators, who live in virtual terror of Donald Trump, did not utter a word of criticism.
I am in total agreement with Will, and I have endorsed Joe Biden for President, the election of a Democratic-controlled US Senate, and continued Democratic control of the US House of Representatives. Specifically in New Jersey, I have endorsed the reelection of all incumbent Democratic candidates for the US House of Representatives, with one exception: In the Seventh Congressional District, I am endorsing the election of Republican Tom Kean, Jr. over Democratic incumbent Representative Tom Malinowski.
My endorsement of Kean does not reflect any negative feeling on my part towards Tom Malinowski, per se. Rather, it is a reflection of my profound reverence for the Kean family legacy of outstanding quality public service, characterized by unsurpassed emphasis on racial and ethnic tolerance.
Tom Kean, Jr. himself has established a record of legislative excellence as the leader of the Republican delegation in the New Jersey State Senate. He has displayed superb issue insight, political acumen, and unassailable integrity.
Tom, Jr. also demonstrated an excellent ability to achieve passage of legislation in both the Assembly and Senate by working with members of the opposite party. This will be an essential quality in what should be his main priority as a member of the House of Representatives: the passage of a federal revenue sharing program that will provide much needed aid to state governments, a vital New
Jersey need in the era of the Coronavirus (see my column on revenue sharing: https://www.insidernj.com/federal-reserve-sharing-proposal-phil-murphy-can-effectively-champion/).
In short, I have no doubt that Tom Kean, Jr. would be an outstanding member of the US House of Representatives. My only criticism of him has to do with his prior unsuccessful political campaigns for the Republican nomination for the Seventh District House of Representatives seat in 2000 and the United States Senate in 2006 against Bob Menendez.
In my view, in both races, Tom, Jr. failed to make maximum effective use of the Kean legacy, a legacy as powerful as the Kennedy legacy in Massachusetts and the LaFollette legacy in Wisconsin, with which I am well familiar as a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School.
The Kean family legacy of ethnic and religious tolerance was first established by the grandfather of Tom Kean, Jr., Robert Kean, who served as a member of the US House of Representatives from 1939 to 1959. He was the first Representative from New Jersey to both 1) call attention to the Nazi genocide of European Jewry and the need to permit the immigration of Jewish refugees; and 2) advocate the creation of the State of Israel. For these reasons, Robert Kean will always have a hallowed place in the Steinberg family.
Tom Kean was much more than just the greatest governor of New Jersey during the 20th Century and the exquisitely successful Chair of the 9-11 Commission. His mantra of “The Politics of Inclusion” was more than just a political slogan. It was the methodology by which Tom Kean established an unsurpassed climate of ethnic and religious tolerance in New Jersey throughout his eight-year tenure as governor.
Tom Kean was so successful that he actually carried the African-American vote in his 1985 reelection. Thirty years after he left the governorship, Tom Kean remains as New Jersey’s most popular political figure.
It is this Politics of Inclusion that New Jersey thirsts for in this era of Trump destruction of the American social fabric. The voters in New Jersey’s Seventh Congressional District will be looking to elect not just a Congressman in this election but a moral leader as well.
By establishing himself as the heir to Tom Kean’s Politics of Inclusion in this election, through a plethora of television commercials featuring himself and his father, Tom Kean, Jr. will earn the crown of moral leadership and win this election. If he does not, however, explicitly repudiate Donald Trump, the racist President of the United States and champion of voter suppression and racist police brutality, the appeals of Kean, Jr. to embrace the Politics of Inclusion will lack credibility, and he will lose.
Two years ago, the then incumbent Republican Seventh District Representative Leonard Lance, a man of supreme intellect, competency, integrity and decency was defeated by Malinowski because of the Trump albatross, a legacy with which he was branded although he was neither close to Trump nor an advocate of Trumpian policies.
The once Republican Seventh District now contains a declining Republican voting constituency of only approximately thirty percent of the electorate. The Democratic registration percentage of the electorate is now thirty percent, and Independents constitute forty percent. And Trump is more unpopular than ever.
Tom Kean, Jr. has an excellent local political consultant in Harrison Neely. Unfortunately, he will find himself surrounded in this campaign by the New Jersey Duo of National Political Irrelevancy, His Bovine Eminence Chris Christie and his Sancho Panza Bill Palatucci and the self-serving political consultants working for the Trumpist puppet House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. They will all implore Tom, Jr. not to repudiate Trump on the basis that he will lose the votes of Republican Trump base supporters. They are wrong – if Tom Kean, Jr. repudiates Trump after the primary by announcing that he will not vote for Trump’s reelection and that he refuses to support Trumpian anti-science, anti-African-American policies, the number of votes he gains among Democrats and Independents will far exceed the number of Republican votes he loses.
In the 2006 US Senate race, Tom Kean, Jr. had no reluctance to excoriate the then President of the United States George W. Bush for his “horrendous mistakes in the Iraq War,” as he put it. Why, then, should he have any reluctance to repudiate the worst president in American history, Donald Trump? Full disclosure: I am a proud veteran of the administration of George W. Bush.
The Kean legacy is one of hallowed glory. The once magnificent Republican legacy of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight David Eisenhower is now repugnant to the vast majority of New Jerseyans.
There is no way that Tom Kean, Jr. can blend the virtual holiness of the Kean legacy with the toxicity of Trumpism. It would be like an Orthodox Jew eating the Torah-forbidden mixture of meat and dairy foods on the fast day of Yom Kippur.
America will survive the cancer of Trumpism after Joe Biden defeats him this November. It is my hope and prayer that the cancer of Trumpism does not deprive the people of New Jersey of the blessing of having Tom Kean, Jr. represent them in the US House of Representatives.
Alan Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.