My response to the 2012 election may not be as populist as Bobby Jindal’s, but his speech to the Republican National Committee is no less worthy of praise in my eyes simply because of that difference. As is his custom, Jindal proves that he is a politician blessed with both intelligence and inspiration; a combination as laudable as it is rare—especially in a political figure. The following excerpt from his speech is a long one, but it is worth highlighting:
If any rational human being were to create our government anew, today, from a blank piece of paper – we would have about one fourth of the buildings we have in Washington and about half of the government workers.
We would replace most of its bureaucracy with a handful of good websites.
If we created American government today, we would not dream of taking money out of people’s pockets, sending it all the way to Washington, handing it over to politicians and bureaucrats to staple thousands of pages of artificial and political instructions to it, then wear that money out by grinding it through the engine of bureaucratic friction…and then sending what’s left of it back to the states, where it all started, in order to grow the American economy.
What we are doing now to govern ourselves is not just wrong. It is out of date and it is a failure.
We believe in planting the seeds of growth in the fertile soil of your economy, where you live, where you work, invest, and dream, not in the barren concrete of Washington.
If it’s worth doing, block grant it to the states.
If it’s something you don’t trust the states to do, then maybe Washington shouldn’t do it at all.
We believe solving problems closer to home should always be our first, not last, option.
We believe hiring others, far away, is the last and least effective way to meet our social responsibilities to others.
States should not face a moral dilemma when they try to right size their own budgets and federal strings stand in the way.
While the Democrats work on taking more from working Americans, we should stand for radically simplifying our tax code – not for the benefit of Washington, but to get the Washington out of the way.
Get rid of the loopholes paid for by lobbyists and blow up the incentives that Washington uses to coerce behavior from the top-down.
It shouldn’t be complicated for a taxpayer to fill out his taxes…or to live his life without fear of the tax consequences of his or her choices.
When it comes to education — let the Democrats extoll the virtues of our hopelessly antiquated one-size-fits-all factory schools where the child follows the dollars.
Meanwhile, let us feature the success of child-centered education solutions that meet the needs of the digital age, education where the dollars follow the child.
These are but a few examples of the way we must fight the battle of ideas, or as [Margaret] Thatcher said, how we must win the argument.
One thing we have to get straight — Washington has spent a generation trying to bribe our citizens and extort our states.
As Republicans, it’s time to quit arguing around the edges of that corrupt system.
And like any good leader, Jindal does not hesitate to take his own side to task when he must:
… the Republican Party does not need to change our principles…but we might need to change just about everything else we do.
Here are seven things that I believe we must change if we are to amass a following worthy of our principles, and if we are to be in position to win elections and lead America:
1. We must stop looking backward. We have to boldly show what the future can look like with the free market policies that we believe in. Many of our Governors are doing just that. Conservative ideals are aspirational, and our country is aspirational. Nostalgia about the good old days is heart-warming, but the battle of ideas must be waged in the future.
2. We must compete for every single vote. The 47 percent and the 53 percent. And any other combination of numbers that adds up to 100 percent. President Barack Obama and the Democrats can continue trying to divide America into groups of warring communities with competing interests, but we will have none of it. We are going after every vote as we work to unite all Americans.
3. We must reject identity politics. The old notion that ours should be a colorblind society is the right one, and we should pursue that with vigor. Identity politics is corrosive to the great American melting pot and we reject it. We must reject the notion that demography is destiny, the pathetic and simplistic notion that skin pigmentation dictates voter behavior. We must treat all people as individuals rather than as members of special interest groups. The first step in getting the voters to like you is to demonstrate that you like them.
4. We must stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican party that talks like adults. It’s time for us to articulate our plans and visions for America in real terms. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. We’ve had enough of that.
5. We must stop insulting the intelligence of voters. We need to trust the smarts of the American people. We have to stop dumbing down our ideas and stop reducing everything to mindless slogans and tag lines for 30-second ads. We must be willing to provide details in describing our views.
6. We must quit “big.” We are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, or big anything. We must not be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys. We have to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive. We are the party whose ideas will help the middle class, and help more folks join the middle class. We are a populist party and need to make that clear.
7. We must focus on real people outside of Washington, not the lobbyists and government inside Washington. We must stop competing with Democrats for the job of “Government Manager,” and lay out ideas that can unleash the dynamic abilities of the American people. We need an equal opportunity society, one in which government does not see its job as picking winners and losers. Where do you go if you want special favors? Government. Where do you go if you want a tax break? Government. Where do you go if you want a handout? Government. This must stop. Our government must pursue a level playing field. At present, government is the un-leveler of the playing field.
This is a pathway forward for the Republican Party, one that honors our principles, the American people, and also, will help us win elections.
It is good to see that much of Jindal’s message is reinforced by Republicans like Haley Barbour. And yes, I know that self-criticism can be a painful exercise, but after having lost four of the last six presidential elections—and five of the last six popular vote contests—perhaps a little self-criticism is called for.
There are a lot of people talking about Bobby Jindal for president in 2016. If he continues to use his public profile to speak hard truths and to encourage new and innovative thinking, he will show himself to be presidential material.