(May 10) Former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont, who died Saturday at age 86, ran the single most ideas-heavy presidential campaign in my lifetime.

Some conservatives just wish he had picked another year in which to do it.

In a 1988 Republican field featuring epochal political figures such as George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, and Pat Robertson, columnist George Will wrote that du Pont offered by far “the highest substance to blather ratio.” Du Pont also earned plaudits from such diverse sources as Southern conservative columnist James Kilpatrick and the moderately liberal black columnist William Raspberry. Kilpatrick wrote that du Pont’s ideas were so bold that, in terms of political salability, they showed “the kind of recklessness identified with riders who break records or break legs, one or the other.”

In addition to joining Kemp as the only two true economic supply-siders in the field that year, du Pont pushed five unique proposals he said were not just right (in both the senses of being correct and being conservative), but “damn right.” It’s hard to remember, now that some of them have become standard-issue conservative positions, just how bold and “cutting edge” several of those ideas were back then.

Most controversially, du Pont called for including private investments within the Social Security system — a plan that, if adopted in 1989, would have allowed retirees to accumulate stock market savings that increased in value (based on the Dow Jones Industrial Average) nearly 6 times faster than inflation over the past 32 years. He was indeed damn right about that.

Du Pont also was right to advocate a school voucher system, a version of which, in the form of education scholarships, has proved wildly popular in 18 states. He was right to push for replacement of welfare with a “workfare” system and major expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit — both of which were later adopted by Congress with great success…..

[The full column is here.]


Tags: , , ,