The Jindal Boomlet

Bobby Jindal has been getting a ton of press recently. He’s been mentioned as a possible McCain VP nominee and even got himself invited to the McCain’s VP weekend at the Arizona ranch. At the same time, a number of liberal sites have been going after Jinal pretty hard, branding him as a right wing nut, writing things like, “But in cultivating this image, movement conservatives overlook the fact that Jindal uses his admittedly impressive resume to mask far-right positions on social issues, economic policy, and the role of government,” and, via an Ezra Klein correspondent, “As for his popularity with conservatives, I can guess the excitement is due, in large part, to the fact that he is a young minority — two features the Republican Party lacks in most candidates — those two assets certainly played well in Louisiana”

This seems incredibly risky to me. As Rick Perstein just wrote about his new book Nixonland, “The liberals and leftists I write about were condescending asses.” Liberals who write off Jindal seem to me to be risking the same thing. One of Perstein’s key examples of liberal condescension is the way that California Governor Pat Brown’s staff rejoiced when Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination in 1966. Quoth Perstein, “In 1966, when Ronald Reagan began surging toward the GOP gubernatorial nomination in California, Esquire, the leading edge of a certain smug center of liberal opinion, graciously allowed that the ‘Republican Party isn’t bankrupt, or isn’t that bankrupt that it has to turn to Liberace for leadership.'”

Bobby Jindal really does strike me as a somewhat unique political figure. What he’s done in Louisiana seems nothing less than astounding to me. A year ago Jinal was primarily known as the political hack who ran for governor at age 32 who came up with the cheap political stunt of having Republican legislators paint their fingers purple for Bush’s State of the Union. Now, he’s combined the raw appeal of Barack Obama’s personal story, a true reformer’s zeal, social conservatism and economic policies to make libertarians swoon into an incredibly charismatic package. Plus, he’s been incredibly successful thus far at governing Louisiana, a task that many thought was impossible.

In six months in charge of Louisiana he’s passed one of the toughest ethics laws, getting a clueless legislator to inveigh against the proposal because a $50 limit on lobbyist paid for meals “would force her and her colleagues to dine at Taco Bell.” Furthermore, “Jindal headhunted a Fortune 500 executive to run his state department of Labor and commanded him to prune it down. In response, the secretary came up with a plan for abolishing the department. This is what you fantasize about Republicans doing before they go and do things like hire Tom Ridge to lobby for the duct tape industry.”

In short, Jindal has serious political skills. Thats not to say he’s perfect, given that all evidence is that he’s not terribly attractive when he starts talking social or foreign policy. But he’s going to be a force in American politics for years. Liberals who don’t like his social policies are idiots for writing him off based on his race and resume or social conservatism. If they do, they’ll misunderestimate yet another personable Southern politician, and we all know what happens then.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The Jindal Boomlet

  1. Ted

    Here’s an important piece of advice: If it looks like it’s going to be McCain/Palin anyway (and that should be a “no brainer” for Team McCain), McCain should announce NOW or VERY SOON, rather than later towards the convention. There’s currently a growing chorus for Obama/Hillary (as VP) ticket (in fact the Dems are likely aware of the Palin phenomenon). If the GOP waits while movement for Hillary as VP grows — even worse until after it is solidified that Hillary will/could be VP pick — selecting Palin will be portrayed by Dems/liberal media more as a reaction by GOP selecting its own female (overshawdoing Palin’s own remarkable assets), rather than McCain taking the lead on this. Selecting Palin now or early (contrary to the punditocracy) will mean McCain will be seen as driving the course of this campaign overwhelmingly, and the DEMS will be seen as merely reacting. And, there’s absoultely no down-side to this because even if Hillary is a no-go as VP for Obama, the GOP gains by acting early. McCain the maverick. Palin the maverick. Do it now!

    There’s no reason, and actually substantial negative, in McCain waiting to see what the Dems do first insofar as his picking Palin as VP, because, no matter who Obama picks, Palin is by far (and I mean far) the best pick for McCain and the GOP, especially in this time of GOP woes. The GOP can be seen as the party of real ‘change’ (albeit I hate that mantra, change, change, bla bla), while not really having to change from GOP core conservative values, which Palin more than represents.

    In light of the current oil/energy situation, as well as the disaffected female Hillary voters situation, and growing focus on McCain’s age and health, Palin is more than perfect — now.

    (Perhaps Team McCain is already on to this.)

  2. Unfortunately for Republicans, no Democrat would instinctively dismiss an up-and-comer with the blanket arrogance that marked the political debut of Ronald Reagan. I’m a liberal, and I can assure you Jindal is taken very seriously on my side of the aisle.

  3. I’m a liberal too. I’m just a little worried that there are a lot of people who are writing Jindal off as a standard republican and someone who only got where he is because he’s a young minority.

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