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EDITORIAL: If JFK ran today

Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, an event that older Americans still well recall.

President Kennedy, a Democrat and the country’s only Catholic president, was an iconic and beloved figure, a true uniter with grand visions who brought everyone together, as evidenced by his average approval rating while in office — a whopping 70 percent. At the time of his death, he held a 58 percent approval rating, according to Gallup, trailing only the final ratings of Bill Clinton (66 percent) and Ronald Reagan (63 percent) among presidents over the past 50 years. And JFK’s legend has only grown since then, with a 2010 Gallup retrospective showing him at 85 percent approval — 11 points better than Mr. Reagan and 16 better than Mr. Clinton.

President Kennedy’s numbers are surely bolstered by a Democratic Party that still adores him. But if JFK were alive and running in 2013, would the Democratic Party actually claim him?

Not likely. As Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby opined last month, the “35th president was an ardent tax-cutter who championed across-the-board, top-to-bottom reductions in personal and corporate tax rates, slashed tariffs to promote free trade, and even spoke out against the ‘confiscatory’ property taxes being levied in too many cities.”

President Kennedy pushed to put a man on the moon, and he held many policy positions that leaned well into Republican territory. But he’s perhaps best known for promoting the idea of individual ability and accountability, eschewing the collectivism and redistributionism that today has exploded the cost of government. JFK put this best during his 1960 presidential campaign: “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

In the age of Obamacare and rapidly expanding cradle-to-grave government entitlement programs, tax cutters aren’t friends of the left. As Mr. Jacoby put it: “Today’s Democratic Party — the home of Barack Obama, John Kerry, and Al Gore — wouldn’t give the time of day to a candidate like JFK.”

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