Bobby Jindal Takes a Stand

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 It is out of date and it is a failure.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.

  1. David Williamson

    I believe the Alinsky treatment of Gov Jindal has already begun.

  2. Chris Campion

    Great stuff.  Special favors, tax breaks, and handouts are nowhere to be found in the Constitution, but it’s certainly part of both the Democrat and Republican party. 

    It has to start with the tax code.  If the favoritism/corporatism/social engineering can be removed from the code, simplified, and pitched to everyone as being in their long-term benefit (because it is), then that’s a start.  The problem with any new tax law is that it becomes the new, permanent world for everyone, and then they’re loathe to part with it.

    Laws are not favors.  They are the chains by which we enslave ourselves to a gov’t only too willing to give us the chains, as long as we vote them in.  It’s the “velvet coffin” approach.  The citizen is dead, essentially, as he or she becomes enslaved to entitlements, handouts, and favors -  but the gov’t gives him or her a nice, comfortable ride, ensconced in velvet.

    I’d rather be alive than dead, thanks.  Progressives can keep their coffins.

  3. Pejman Yousefzadeh
    C

    It began a long time ago, but Jindal ought to be flattered by the attention.

    Incidentally, I think it’s worth mentioning that the right could learn a lot from Alinsky. It is not as though his tactics need only be practiced by the left.

    David Williamson: I believe the Alinsky treatment of Gov Jindal has already begun. · 18 minutes ago

  4. flownover

    Just making him president isn’t nearly enough, his clarion call to action has to be taken up at every corner, in every city council meeting, every ward meeting , each town, county, city, state level must be involved.

    It would neater to just wave a wand and have President Jindal, but his admonition to us is to defenestrate the office of POTUS and depopulate the boomtown of Washington . Make it more Austin and less Sacramento .

    We have to resist at so many levels. We need a manifesto and the seeds are there.

  5. BrentB67

    Powerful stuff, a very good start.

  6. Sweezle

    TY for reprinting this speech. I admire Governor Jindal and I welcome the possibility of him entering the field for 2016. He has a great deal of governing experience and like Jeb Bush, he has some good ideas for the Republican party to debate and consider. It will be interesting to see who emerges to run over the next year or two.

  7. Michael Hornback

    Jindal’s words are a wonderful breath of fresh air.  I do hope our candidates from around the country listen to his advice.

    There are a couple of his points that I’d gently argue against, however.  In some cases, he talks of a country he hopes for, and not one we currently have.  I’m sorry to say this, but we do have a country based on identity politics.  Indeed, THIS IS WHY we lost the election!  And as long as Republicans try to convince themselves and others that we live in a “colorblind” society, we will continue to lose a large share of votes.  

    Face it, by human nature, people vote for people that are most like themselves.  Now in the white population, there has been a massive education and cultural movement to move beyond that.  Thus, many do vote more on ideas than on identity.  The question is, how do we get other minority populations to do this as well?  How do we convince people in the black population that after centuries of injustice, they can now begin to vote on ideas and not just for the party that will “stick up for them?”

  8. Michael Hornback

    For other minority populations, there is a tendency to cling together, knowing that together they are stronger than apart, facing the majority.  Of course, in the majority, there is little of this dynamic as they are comfortable with being in the majority.  So, they can safely vote on more theoretical grounds such as the role of government, moral issues, economic theories, etc.  In the minority world, it is about survival.  Now, we have a burgeoning middle class in our minority populations.  But, they’ve been culturally raised on the survival mentality.  And Democrats have taken advantage of this fact.  It really is rotten.  In the heart of most Democrats, they know Republicans aren’t racist.  And yet, they know that this cultural stereotype is what allows them to campaign so effectively among minorities.  And they just aren’t going to give that advantage up.

    So, Republicans need to figure out, in my opinion, how to use identity politics in order to destroy it.  Whether it’s an all minority presidential ticket (Rubio, Jindal, Martinez, Cruz, Haley, you pick two!), that aggressively fights to change this toxic perception, or some other idea that someone can shift this paradigm.

  9. Michael Hornback

    The other issue with which I would caution Governor Jindal on is the idea that we can have a campaign that is free of catchy slogans and instead based on thoughtful arguments.  I’d humbly submit to you that Governor Romney tried his best to have thoughtful arguments.  Remember the cheering by conservatives at the debates?

    Politicians must remember how most of the population thinks of them.  They think about them as little as possible!  Americans live their lives and really only consider the political world when something threatens them.  For example, a tax or regulation that could ruin their livelihood.  Only among the political junkies, like the ones reading Ricochet, actually want to spend time thinking about these thoughtful arguments.

    As a US History teacher, I saw this in action.  Obviously, many of my students were too young to appreciate politics.  But honestly, most aren’t going to change much.  They just don’t care about politics.  They don’t care about the details of the constitutional amendments.  They care about their own lives.  

    With that said, Republicans do need to keep their ideas simple and they need to tell the voter what’s in it for them.

  10. Pejman Yousefzadeh
    C

    I don’t disagree with any of this.

    flownover: Just making him president isn’t nearly enough, his clarion call to action has to be taken up at every corner, in every city council meeting, every ward meeting , each town, county, city, state level must be involved.

    It would neater to just wave a wand and have President Jindal, but his admonition to us is to defenestrate the office of POTUS and depopulate the boomtown of Washington . Make it more Austin and less Sacramento .

    We have to resist at so many levels. We need a manifesto and the seeds are there. · 7 hours ago

  11. Goldgeller

    Jindal makes some great points. We need to begin to offer bolder visions of reform. I like his idea of “block granting to the states.” It’s a great idea to limit the scope of the federal government and the test is a good test “if you don’t trust the states to do it, maybe we shouldn’t do it.” It will also have the benefits of competition between the states.  

    We need to get better at fighting the identity politics game as well. Conservative policies work for everyone, and it’s time we begin making that case. Romney was wrong with his “I’m not concerned about the poor they have a safety net” comment. Free market policies are the way to the help the poor. He should’ve made that connection. Our policies help people in the lower class go to the middle and then to the upper classes. Democratic policies do not. If anything, they offer perverse incentives by making work that would cause you to leave the subsidy brackets much more expensive than they should be. We need to point this out as well. 

  12. Nanda Panjandrum

    I still can’t get Jindal’s response to the 09 State of the Union out of my head…

  13. liberal jim

    Yet one more Republican talking the talk.  I believe the problem isn’t the talk it is that once Republicans get to DC they cannot walk the walk.

    Jindal made the decision to identify himself with the Republican party and therefore I assume he is a two faced spineless sort of person who might say anything that he deems politically expedient. 

  14. Pejman Yousefzadeh
    C

    Unlike our president, of course, who NEVER says anything for the purposes of political expediency.

    Thanks for the comment. I needed a laugh on a Monday morning.

    liberal jim: Yet one more Republican talking the talk.  I believe the problem isn’t the talk it is that once Republicans get to DC they cannot walk the walk.

    Jindal made the decision to identify himself with the Republican party and therefore I assume he is a two faced spineless sort of person who might say anything that he deems politically expedient.  · 23 hours ago

  15. Nanda Panjandrum

    After Mr. Bennett @ NRI, I have to say I find the “stupid party” applause line adolescent and offensive…short on solutions.