In a 45-minute interview with POLITICO, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tore into the GOP’s consultant class and suggested that Republicans adopt a strategy of on the one hand counting on the intelligence of the electorate and on the other embracing populism.
If that doesn’t make a great deal of sense to you, you’re not alone. Though naturally, the POLITICO reporter (Johnathan Martin) who conducted the interview can’t be assumed to have quoted Jindal in context given Martin’s history as a left leaner.
A few highlights…
“We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything,” Jindal told POLITICO in a 45-minute telephone interview. “We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.”
The first reaction to that statement would be that Jindal is running for president in 2016, and this is his opening salvo aimed at distancing himself from Mitt Romney. Yes, the GOP needs to position itself as the party of the middle class and independent business, and yes, taking potshots at Wall Street is a way to do that. But there’s a word for “getting to keep your toys” – that word is freedom. It doesn’t make you the party of big business or the rich to have a philosophical opposition to those who want to soak them for the purpose of buying other people’s votes with their money.
“It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that,” Jindal said. “It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”
He’s obviously talking about Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock here, but his formulation could use some doctoring. How do you not tolerate stupid comments? Does the GOP hire hit men? And does Jindal realize that when the party throws its standard-bearers under the bus for gaffes they might make, that only encourages the lefty media to goad Republicans into more gaffes? After all, Mourdock was felled by the abortion-rape question specifically asked in an effort to make a Todd Akin out of him. It’s beyond a doubt his fault not to have seen it coming and act accordingly, but to make statements like “can’t be tolerated” only signals blood in the water to the other side.
Jindal might say that the GOP needs to work on finding better candidates and improving the candidates it has through PR training and better messaging. To say “can’t be tolerated” only tells the Left that if it can find a way to make a Republican look stupid while running for office, then the party and its supporters will abandon that Republican.
And that’s stupid in its own right.
As for trusting the intelligence of the American people, it’s a horrible idea unless you’re going to adopt the maxim Reagan stole from the Russians: trust, but verify. The electorate’s performance last week was beyond a doubt the worst in memory; it bought into some of the worst examples of political pandering imaginable. The War On Women? Deficit reduction from soaking the rich? Doubling down on Solyndras? Al Qaeda in remission? Big Bird? Only a moron would believe the rhetoric of the Obama campaign, and yet he got 331 electoral votes.
So no, this is not a time to trust the intelligence of the American people. It’s a time to EDUCATE the American people. It’s a time to IMPROVE the intelligence of the electorate. Does that mean building a stronger narrative of how limited government and economic liberty will improve everyone’s lives? Absolutely. And if that’s what Jindal is talking about, then we don’t have a disagreement. But trusting the intelligence of the American public means taking for granted that they know these things and you only need to refer to them rather than explain them.
And that’s one of the biggest problems with modern conservatism; we are so dogmatic in our acceptance of the truths Reagan, Friedman and others taught to us that we assume the rest of the country accepts them as well. That is no longer true; our failure to maintain a presence within the mainstream news media, the entertainment culture and academia means there is an entire generation of voters which hasn’t the first clue about free markets and how they’re better than socialism.
Rather than trust anyone’s intelligence, we need to return to the basics. We need to use the next four years as a running lesson on the failure of big government and the incompetence, corruption and social pathology it’s replete with, and we need to be extremely aggressive in calling out the Left for their self-dealing and mendacity. And we need to hammer the lesson home in terms that morons can understand.
Calling on the GOP to be “the party of ideas, details and intelligent solutions,” the Louisianan urged the party to “stop reducing everything to mindless slogans, tag lines, 30-second ads that all begin to sound the same. “
He added: “Simply being the anti-Obama party didn’t work. You can’t beat something with nothing. The reality is we have to be a party of solutions and not just bumper-sticker slogans but real detailed policy solutions.”
On this score, Jindal is correct. The Romney campaign didn’t want to present any details, and for good reason – Romney’s people knew that any concrete plans they put on the table would be torn apart by the Left and their minions in the media. But because Romney didn’t push a detailed plan of any kind, he gave the other side the opportunity to paint him as vacuous and untrustworthy. And Jindal’s right to say that can’t happen again.
This can be seen in large measure as a shot across the bow from Jindal-the-policy-wonk to the GOP’s consultant class, and specifically the old guard Republican consultants who counsel to boil everything down to sound bites and bumper stickers.
Raising Romney’s damaging comments about voters who don’t pay income taxes, Jindal urged the GOP to make clear they want the support of every American.
“The Republican Party is going to fight for every single vote,” he said. “That means the 47 percent and the 53 percent, that means any other combination of numbers going up to 100 percent.”
He’s wrong here. The GOP needs to cast those who will never vote for it as the problem with the country and specifically demonize them.
The Left went ballistic at Reagan’s formulation of “welfare queens” for two decades, but it was so effective that a Democrat president ultimately adopted welfare reform. Now more of the country is on welfare than ever before, and welfare programs are rife with fraud and waste.
And exactly why should Republicans fight for votes in the “black community?” Romney was beaten 14-1 with the black vote while being demonized as a racist throughout the campaign. The “leaders” of the “black community” are invested in the electoral success of the Democrat Party; that isn’t going to change in the foreseeable future. Rather than make outreach to the “black community” on its terms, it’s time for the GOP to do something a lot more creative and aggressive.
Namely, challenge these people on the GOP’s own terms.
Romney was praised for his speech to the NAACP this summer, since previous GOP candidates wouldn’t address them. But what Romney gave was a standard stump speech. Instead, the next Republican nominee should offer something different to the NAACP. Something like asking them how come they’re pro-choice when, despite being 13 percent of the population, African-American kids are 40 percent of those being aborted. And asking why they support the idea of the federal government funding Planned Parenthood, which is an organization begun by a vicious racist (Margaret Sanger) who was open about her desire to reduce the black population of America through abortion and sterilization and who routinely spoke at Klan rallies. And asking why it is that the politicians the NAACP supports inevitably destroy the cities they gain office in.
You’ll get booed for doing that, but you’ll gain support outside the “black community.” Particularly among blacks who don’t identify with that community. There are lots of them, by the way; a solid third of black Americans identify as middle class, don’t have kids out of wedlock, pay income tax, own their own home in the suburbs. That third should vote for the party which was founded to free the slaves and which fought for civil rights while Democrats stood on schoolhouse steps.
Let’s remember that the way you convert people to an ideology or a philosophy – or a religion, which is the more specific analogy I’m shooting for – is to go after the dissidents and the unfortunates. Christianity grew initially as an anti-establishment religion before it found acceptance in the mainstream of Roman society. Muslims are working in American prisons to gain converts. So if you’re attempting to proselytize free-market conservatism among black people in the United States, you have to do it by peeling off dissidents in the “black community.” So challenge that community directly with an eye toward peeling off the people who have moved out of black neighborhoods and people who have the least investment in perpetuating the system which turns out that monolithic vote.
Newt Gingrich talks about the difference between outreach and inclusion. He says outreach is when five white guys have a meeting and then call you, while inclusion is when you get invited to that meeting. He has a point there, but within monolithic constituencies like the black community you’re only going to break them apart by finding people willing to call them out. An Allen West or Mia Love or Angela McGlowan or C.L. Bryant who trashes the black establishment using Alinsky tactics and brings the constituency thus generated and the resulting power into a seat at the GOP table will do more good for conservatism, and the country in general, than any amount of “outreach.”
All the same dynamics apply to Hispanics. Where are the Republican Hispanics willing to call out La Raza for the radical racist, socialist, anti-American mob that it is? We act like a cave-in on immigration is the issue, but where is the effort to discredit the socialists in the Democrat Party who are attempting to put Hispanics on the same plantation they’ve put blacks? Why aren’t Hispanic conservatives calling out the Joaquin Castros of the world for the Uncle Toms to the Democrat establishment they are? We already know what identity politics and anti-capitalist policies do in cities where they’re put in place; they hollow them out and turn them into ruins. So say so. Show that what the Democrats have done for Detroit they are surely doing for San Antonio, Los Angeles and El Paso.
When you’re losing in a community, it means you have nothing to lose by setting off a few bombs and shaking things up. Republicans will never out-pander Democrats; we’re philosophically handicapped to do so. So don’t try. Work to tear down the other guy’s infrastructure, and he won’t be able to consolidate the vote.
Where Jindal showed a bit more daring was on the banking industry, something that Obama blistered Romney on and to which the GOP nominee offered little response.
Declaring that Republicans “can’t be beholden to special interests or banks,” the successor to Huey P. Long indicated support for provisions in the Dodd-Frank law, which requires banks to increase their reserves to prevent future taxpayer-funded bailouts.
Even more notably, Jindal suggested he’d look favorably on something akin to the “Volcker rule.”
“You’ve seen some conservatives come around to the idea that if banks are going to be using FDIC-insured deposits, they shouldn’t be allowed to co-mingle those funds with some of their riskier investment banking activity,” Jindal said. “There needs to be stronger walls between insured deposits, the taxpayer protected side of business and riskier side of business that generate these risks and profits.”
There is nothing wrong with this part; allowing the merger of investment banking and traditional banking hasn’t worked. But the emphasis – which Jindal might well have made, and Martin might have ignored it – needs to be on “too big to fail” and the fact that bank bailouts prevented community banks who didn’t destroy their loan portfolios from capturing a lot larger share of the financial markets. Better rules limiting the power of big banks to screw up the financial markets and insuring that the banking industry is spread much wider than it is constitutes good policy as well as good politics, but that isn’t the effect of Dodd-Frank.
But most of all, where is the indictment of Fannie and Freddie? To this day it’s amazing that the GOP hasn’t savaged the crooks, goldbrickers, fat cats and greaseball political hacks who populate those diseased institutions and have never been held to account for their role in the housing crash. Romney’s failure to make that case – and outline Barack Obama’s prominent role in it – was a big reason for his loss. Jindal is on target in repudiating the big banks, but if he can’t take out Fannie and Freddie with collateral damage his bomb isn’t powerful enough.
In comments that will raise eyebrows among some of the RGA’s donors, Jindal decried “agnostic” lobbyists who work both parties.
“They’re access donors because they know whoever is in power — that’s who they want to be friends with to get their special perks in the Tax Code,” he said.
Meh. Lobbyists are what they are. Running against them might be good politics but it’s not really substantive.
Jindal said he didn’t want to see tax rate increases but called for broad tax reform to rid the code of loopholes and make it fairer for more Americans.
“Depending on the other reforms that are made, certainly I’d be open to the idea of having more deductions, credits available to lower-income [filers],” he said.
As to whether that includes the tax breaks on carried interest and for corporate jets — the latter of which could be called a “toy” for the rich — Jindal reiterated that he wanted keep all ideas on the table.
Perhaps it’s good to keep talking about this, but frankly it’s pretty clear that Republican talking points on tax policy simply don’t resonate any more.
What we need is a massive tax increase that crushes the economy. The Democrats say that’s what the public voted for, and based on the fact they gained seats in the Senate and got Obama re-elected, they’re right.
So fine. Get out of the way and let Obama have what he wants. If he wants to say that if you let him soak the rich he can put a dent in the budget, let him try to prove it by enacting his tax increase. But demand draconian, immediate budget cuts in the bargain, and let him know that this is his big Christmas present. He gets his tax increase on rich people, and that’s all he gets until the Democrats retake the House of Representatives.
And make sure every Republican votes “present.” Not no, not yes: “present.” In other words, make the Dems own it. Say that the tax code is beyond redemption, that it’s an impediment to federal revenue collection, economic growth and even national security, but it’s what the Dems want and they’re running tax policy now.
Then watch it burn. Use the 12 vulnerable Democrat Senators up for re-election in 2014 as marshmallows. They’ll be ready to eat in November 2014.
Next comes a nice exposition of Martin’s left-wing bias…
His home-state critics will argue that his rhetoric doesn’t match his policies — he’s currently taking heat for deep cuts to Louisiana’s public hospital system. But the governor said Republicans should frame themselves as on the side of the people.
“We’re a populist party and we’ve got to make that clear going forward,” he said.
To Jindal, that means improving the quality of education for kids across class and racial lines. The author of a major school reform bill this year, he said education is one example of how government needs to be changed to adapt to the times.
“Let the dollar follow the child instead of making the child follow the dollar,” he said of his policies to support charter, private and home schooling.
More broadly, he called for “a bottom-up government that fits the digital age.”
Martin neglected to mention that Louisiana is the only state with an obsolete state-run charity hospital system, and he failed to explain why Big Government-owned public hospitals are somehow a necessity to prove up a conservative populist credential sheet.
Jindal is moreover correct in that vouchers and other school choice measures are part of a 21st century agenda which moves government away from its Industrial Age unionized bureaucratic model – and that needs to be perhaps the overriding theme behind all conservative policymaking going forward. Because in every facet of the relationship between the individual and the government where choice, individual responsibility and voluntary participation can replace top-down, coercive government, conservatives should be for it.
Education is one obvious area that principle should be put into practice. Health care is another. There are ways to address crime through choice and voluntarism. In tax policy, allowing filers the choice of a flat tax is an example. Flexibility and experimentation in regulatory standards should be on the table. Allowing taxpayers to voluntarily fund things like the space program is something else.
A great deal of emphasis needs to be placed on this, because if the GOP wants to appeal to the 18-29 crowd there is no better way to do it than to present a vision of government that reminds them of how they function in their regular lives – e-commerce, Craigslist, social media, other methods of individual empowerment within the real economy.
In terms of being more imaginative on policy, he gently rebuked his own party on energy by hinting that he had little use for the “Drill, Baby, Drill” sloganeering on oil production.
“When we talk about energy policy, it cannot simply just be ‘drill more,’ it has to be more than that — it has to be comprehensive,” he said, calling for expanded oil and gas exploration while also looking more favorably than some Republicans on renewable-energy solutions.
Hopefully the party will ignore Jindal’s prescriptions here, because the only thing wrong with Mitt Romney’s messaging on energy was that he wasn’t aggressive enough in pushing how crooked the Democrats are where wind and solar energy are concerned. Romney hinted at the $90 billion in taxpayer dollars Obama burned up on Solyndra, Beacon Energy and the rest, but he and the rest of the Republican campaign structure didn’t capitalize on the connection between the Solyndras and Obama’s campaign bundlers. A great narrative was lost as a result. But the good news is that Obama is stupidly hanging on to the “investment” in more uneconomic rent-seeking “energy” companies for his second term, which gives the GOP another bite at the apple.
It’s not that wind and solar energy should be made illegal, it’s that the government shouldn’t pick winners. And it’s that if the market wants to bring more energy online, it is the government’s job to get out of the way and let it happen.
But from a messaging standpoint, stop talking about how much you like wind and solar energy. Start talking about how nobody gets a free ride anymore and how those in the energy industry need to be allowed to earn an honest living. If that means folks can make a profit off windmills and solar panels without the taxpayers subsidizing them, great. If not, them’s the breaks.
Jindal, decrying the GOP’s tendency to reminisce about how things were “better in the good ol’ days,” is tougher on his party’s tone than its substance. He’s an unapologetic conservative who doesn’t want to deviate from small-government principles. But he’s firing a warning to Republicans that they must change how they’re perceived.
“You’ve got to give the president’s team credit: They did a very good job portraying the Republican Party as wanting to just preserve the status quo for those who’ve already been successful and burn the bridge behind them,” he acknowledged. “That’s not what we as a party stand for and what we as a party can stand for.”
He’s got that right. One thing the GOP needs to keep in mind that the good ol’ days weren’t all that good. Our party tends to be nostalgic about the 1980’s where foreign policy is concerned, the 1950’s where social and cultural policy is concerned and the 1920’s where economic and regulatory policy is concerned. But in the 1980’s, we failed to address the rise of Iran as an exporter of terrorism and we weren’t able to do anything about the growth of Middle Eastern geopolitical might thanks to oil wealth (which ultimately spread the cancer of salafist Islam into places inconvenient for us and has set up the pre-eminent foreign policy challenge of the 21st century). And in the 1950’s, while American culture was without question stronger than it is now, it was in the 1950’s when American patriots lost the fight to stop communist infiltration into our society as Joe McCarthy was taken off the public stage. Finally, in the 1920’s, which was perhaps the freest and most prosperous decade in the past 100 years (adjusted for technological conditions at the time), the Progressive movement nevertheless had foisted Prohibition on the country and made criminals out of millions of regular people whose habits were perfectly legal one day and underground the next.
There never has been a conservative nirvana. There never will be. The fight will never be won, nor lost. But if what Jindal is intimating is that conservatives have to engage the fight in the culture on a much deeper level than we have to date in order to re-shape the Left’s narrative about us, he needs to be more explicit about that.
And the grand finale…
Asked directly if he would run for president, Jindal dodged.
“I got the best job in the world and I’m going to be focused on being governor of this great state for the next three years and being chairman of RGA next year and getting a bunch of great Republican governors elected,” he said.
Jindal’s going to run in 2016. Or if nothing else he’s going to try to, and if he finds enough support to build a campaign he’ll hit the trail. He can deny that all he wants, but the mere fact that he gave Jonathan Martin 45 minutes of his time (nobody in the Louisiana media gets that much one-on-one time with him) is proof enough.