Excerpt from the Weekly Standard:
Jeff, who died suddenly at age 74 on Saturday evening, was primed to be on the vanguard. Starting in the mid-1970s, he turbocharged the policy agenda that culminated with Reagan’s landslide election and a mandate for massive tax cuts. But Reagan (“The only great man I ever worked for, though I didn’t know it at the time,” he once told me. “You never do.”) came around to the cuts only after Jeff proved on the ballot something that Republicans now accept as gospel: Across-the-board income tax cuts are innately popular with voters.
If he had cashed out of movement politics in 1980, Jeff’s legacy would have been set. Instead he stayed on the insurgency. When Reagan’s staff tilted against Reaganomics, he spearheaded a shadow cabinet and worked with the Democratic senator who defeated him in the 1978 general election—Bill Bradley—on the tax reform of 1986. This iteration had Ted Kennedy and Al Gore voting for a top marginal rate of 28 percent. That’s 42 percentage points, 8 years, and a world away from where he started.
By the time I began working for Jeff in 2010 at the think tank he co-founded, he had spent the previous two decades concentrating on social conservatism, to which he devoted a pair of books. He was struck by its appeal not just in Republican primaries, but with general election voters who were economically populist, rather than conservative. In a 2012 interview with the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto, he identified states totaling 348 electoral votes where social conservatism held the advantage—almost all of which would go Republican in 2016.
His appreciation for populism is what emboldened him to pursue the unfinished business of supply-side economics: the gold standard. When Jeff couldn’t find a Jack Kemp protégé to champion this monetary reform in Congress, in 2014 he ran on it himself—for the very the same Senate seat nomination he had won the first time.
Read more at The Weekly Standard.