Let’s assume the gossiping and connect-the-dots reveals this: Gov. Bobby Jindal latched onto the 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign and when it started to go well started stumping for a high appointive post had it succeeded, but when it failed soon thereafter launched a couple of criticisms of the candidacy, leading some former campaign insiders to accuse Jindal of hypocrisy. Then, in fact does this make Jindal a hypocrite and what does it mean for him politically?
That’s a big negative on the first question. No surrogate, whether volunteering for campaign assistance or employed as a policy-making extension of a chief executive, is going always to agree with the boss on every issue or action. But that doesn’t matter so long as he loyally supports without public dissension of whatever the candidate/executive does; that’s all you can ask. And if that support cannot be forthcoming, then the subordinate resigns to avoid disunity.
However, the campaign is over and it’s Ann, not Jindal, who married Mitt. So if Jindal wants to point out flaws that he saw in it, he’s right to do so, regardless of whether it’s from the goodness of his heart to improve his party’s chances of winning elections and/or because identifying himself with that criticism improves the prospects of his political career. It doesn’t make him a hypocrite to have kept his mouth shut during the campaign about, then after it criticize, the remark that Romney made that said he had an uphill climb when 47 percent of the population was in families receiving some kind of benefit from the federal government, followed up by Romney calling many of these transfer payments “gifts.” It makes him loyal as long as there was something to which to be loyal.
It’s a strange definition of “hypocrisy” when it means if you have disagreements with the leader that you must carry them to the grave. If the Romney campaign had wanted errand boys willing to make blood oaths of silence instead of distinguished surrogates whose purposes were to compel voters to tap the screen for Romney, that’s who they should have had out on the hustings plumping for Romney.
And what Jindal said that prompted the former aides’ complaining needed to be said, both for the good of the GOP and for progression of a Jindal political career. The main mistake made by the Romney campaign was its faith that a projection of steadiness and competence with ideology taking a back seat alone could win in an environment where so much of the electorate benefitted from federal government largesse (yes, you can point out that over a third of that “47 percent” was in the form of social insurance payouts, but practically everybody receiving those has benefitted from huge government subsidies with future generations paying for those of the past and through deficit spending).
Jindal is absolutely correct in maintaining that anybody receiving transfer payments can be persuaded by the intellectual and quantifiable policy superiority of conservatism. Many, because of character, temperament, and intellectual laziness, will not be, but some will and can become part of a winning, enduring coalition, Maybe you do get a “gift” from government, but some non-trivial portion of those recipients want more and want a country where they or their children don’t need such “gifts,” and it is, where liberalism fails to do so, conservatism that demonstrates how that is achieved. As did Pres. Ronald Reagan before him, Jindal (and others) get that. All that has to be done is to communicate and demonstrate the core principles of conservatism.
Which, at best, Romney gave just a half-effort to, banking his campaign on getting the majority in the country disappointed and disgusted to the polls, instead of additionally challenging the caricature the left created about ideas antithetical to its destructive agenda. That exit poll majorities still could pin blame on the economic situation on Pres. Barack Obama’s predecessor instead of on the guilty party himself and that the arrogant, insensitive, and bad-mouthing Obama could be seen as more “caring” than Romney exactly diagnoses this failure to offer more choice than echo by the Romney campaign.
That Jindal spoke of this flaw, even if at a more superficial, less analytical level, while setting down a marker for any future national aspirations, and subsequently drew this reaction from some may bring more near-term, state-level political drawbacks for him. Legislators may take this incident as a sign Jindal’s interest is waning in state governance if he seemed so willing to move into a putative Romney Administration, and become more likely to challenge him. Thus, Jindal needs to draw to a close the post-mortem phase of the national campaign, no matter how much the media may wish to goad him to keep it up (because the media believe conflict in politics sells, the bonus being if it is within the GOP) and instead begin work on an aggressive and well-prepared legislative agenda.
This action wins votes nationally, too, when a governor shows success in this area, and can happen only if Jindal does not detach himself too much from state policy-making. By creating and commanding popular majorities in the state, enough legislators will not buck him, but that takes paying attention to governance at home. We’ll see how well Jindal responds to this by the beginning of next year.