We go back and forth on Bobby Jindal. At times he’s capable of doing some really groundbreaking policy work, and there is reason to think he can fulfill some of the hype that the national political establishment has bestowed on him.
And at other times, he presents something which is, for lack of a better word, half-assed.
Take America Next, for example, which is Jindal’s new 501(c)4 organization aimed at shaking conservatism out of its Stupid Party doldrums, or something. The mission statement from the America Next website has this in it…
We’ve said what we are against. But shame on us if we don’t put pen to paper and begin selling the American public on a new policy direction for this country.
Many historians call the 20th century the American century, and they see this century as something different. Many of our politicians act as if our best days are behind us.
I believe America is a forever young country, and that we can usher in a new era of growth, of freedom, of unprecedented success and greatness. Freedom is never an old idea.
However, I also believe that if we don’t develop and enact a new policy agenda in Washington very soon, our country will decline. I believe the hour is late.
It’s up to us. Each generation must affirm the promise and the Dream of America for themselves. My generation has thus far failed to do so.
There will be no change in our country or in Washington, without building, championing, and selling the ideas that can unleash great opportunities for an American future.
Margaret Thatcher famously contended that first we must win the war of ideas, after that we can win the election.
AMERICA NEXT is not focused on elections. We are not one of those groups that merely pretend to be focused on policy, but are actually focused on campaigns.
No, winning the war of ideas, that is what AMERICA NEXT intends to do, and that is what America needs.
As Shelley wrote of Ozymandias, “Nothing else remains.”
Jindal rolled out this c-4 with a POLITICO interview, in which he disclosed that the executive director of America Next is the person who ran Mitt Romney’s Iowa operation in 2012, and of course that OnMessage, the political consultancy firm of which Jindal is a client, is involved in this project. Then, while denying this thing is infrastructure to support a 2016 run he said he “didn’t know” if he was going to make that race.
To which the easy response is “Of course you’re going to run for president in 2016. You just don’t know how much support you’re going to get.”
The thing of it is, Jindal needed to keep America Next quiet until it was ready. By no means are we saying it’s a rollout as lousy as Obamacare, but why would you announce this project to POLITICO when your website has a front page, a Donate page and a Mission Statement page and nothing else?
And a political consultant friend of ours pointed out something else, which was that she’s dumbfounded that Jindal’s people didn’t go and buy the domain for americanext.com or .org before launching this thing. The domain they’re using is “americanxt.org,” which nobody is going to find.
The other thing we noticed was the image on the front page…
A smartass friend who emigrated from Louisiana after college noted “that looks more like America Last than America Next.” Which is a bit harsh, perhaps, but while the French Quarter has great charm he’s correct that it’s of dubious value as an image to project 21st century conservatism, or to sell it.
It’s puzzling how a governor who has built a reputation for producing some innovative policy ideas and giving the most impressive presentations for those ideas would be attaching himself to something that looks this poorly-thought-out. If you’re going to be America Next, wouldn’t you think your rollout would come when your website is completely ready, and that site is full of futuristic bells and whistles and cool ideas innovatively presented, so that when Jindal goes to POLITICO and says “Hey, I’ve got this new c-4 and we’re calling it America Next and here’s what it’s about,” people would go to a website at an easy-to-find domain and say “Holy cow, this is impressive?”
And that the thing would be branded in a way in which everything revolves around the theme that the old Stupid Party clunky conservative messaging is over, and we’re now about high-tech, fast-moving and microtargeted empowerment for a glorious new age which leaves Democrats in the dust?
So far, it’s not. So far, this looks like Jindal saw Rick Perry debut his c-4, that Americans for Economic Freedom thing, and recognized that this is Perry’s vehicle for exploring a 2016 run so if Jindal is going to make the race he needs one too. And he hires Romney’s Iowa director to run it, and slaps together a web page to raise money with – then goes to POLITICO to keep his name circulating in Washington.
Covering the bases. And saying he doesn’t know if he’s gonna run in 2016, so he’s still out there and the media can make sure to mention his name when they talk about Republican presidential hopefuls even though he won’t admit to being one.
All the while talking about how important it is to win the argument and get the folks on your side, without presenting the argument in any detail on his website.
But the other thing about this which seems troubling is that it sure does look like an admission by Jindal that he’s done trying to be governor. Perry went and put his c-4 together after he said he wouldn’t run for re-election in Texas, and there are already Republican (Greg Abbott) and Democrat (Wendy Davis) frontrunners out on the hustings trying to get that job. Nobody begrudges Perry much of anything at this point when he concedes he’s a lame duck; he’s been governor in Texas forever.
Jindal? He’s only five and a half years in. He has two more legislative sessions within which to move conservative policies, and he’s got sizable majorities in the state legislature to move them through. Jindal’s made some conservative advances, but everybody knows he still has more he can do. So why would you go and announce a c-4 that has nothing to do with Louisiana outside of the French Quarter picture on the web site?
It comes off like he’s throwing in the towel and that he’s off to do other things; and worse, that the “Where’s Bobby?” meme the Left and even Republican critics have beaten him to a pulp with the last couple of years is accurate. It isn’t a particularly fair criticism, and Jindal’s supporters are right to point out that an Edwin Edwards whose corruption and philandering is a national embarrassment or a Kathleen Blanco whose bumbling and clown-show demeanor can’t hold a national stage the way Jindal can and that it’s actually a good thing that people think highly enough of a Louisiana leader that he’s invited to speak in Des Moines or Albuquerque. Nevertheless, if you do have political ambitions it’s smart not to let anyone think you’re an absentee landlord, and that’s exactly what this project does – and to what looks like an astonishingly small amount of benefit.
We really do want to like Jindal, and for the most part we still do. But with the resources the governor is capable of generating to engage in a project of the scope it says it will have, this seems remarkably uninspired.