If, as conventional wisdom suggests, Gov. Bobby Jindal has gone all in on opposition to the Common Core State Standards in order to boost his national electoral profile, one must question his thinking and/or the quality of the political advice he’s getting.
As previously noted, with practically no political power to do so available, Jindal has been waging an intense rearguard action to prevent the state from implementing fully CCSS, and in the process of doing so has bet his entire national political future on an issue most voters don’t know about, of those that do for many it’s not a big priority, and one that splits his conservative base. Worse, the tactics he uses increasingly have acquired a sheen of desperation, such as arecent suit that essentially claims the 225-year old federal grant-in-aid system is unconstitutional, make his natural constituency of principled conservatives scratch their heads over his choices – especially when there is an education issue on which he has been a leader with a genuine constitutional question at stake that his side would win in which he appears to have no interest.
Last year, the federal government attempted to assert control over Louisiana’s scholarship voucher program, to which Jindal objected. Ultimately, District Judge Ivan Lemelle (who tipped his hand in a previous case) rendered an opinion that did not give the Pres. Barack Obama Administration control over the program, but in that justification wrote in an implicit power of the federal government to define unlawful discrimination by state government as a product of individual decisions by families unrelated to government – an audacious rewriting of the Constitution that vastly expands government’s power to intervene not just in instances where there has been intended and deliberate discrimination employed, but also merely where are present discrepant outcomes. More incredibly, it was based on the preclearance argument already dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier the year before that.
However, after a subsequent ruling in April that reports had to be delivered – implying that the federal government could intervene related to the data – the Jindal Administration basically lost interest in the case, declaring victory in the battle without bothering to trying to win the war. Only after legal wrangling could the case be revived, on the basis that the federal government’s case had to be dismissed because of the death of the preclearance concept, in an effort brought by families, the Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options, and the Goldwater Institute. Early last month, Lemelle again stubbornly ruled as he had previously, and last week the plaintiffs appealed – just as the Jindal Administration should have done months ago, as the ruling did not close the door on the federal government getting an injunction to stop the program on the contrived basis of discriminatory impact.
It was about that time of demurral on the case that Jindal decided to energetically begin opposing CCSS, culminating now in this suit that runs entirely counter to the jurisprudence of intergovernmental relations; to say it’s a longshot to win may overstate its chances of success. Yet since Jindal has been absent in a matter in the area of education that was one of his signature policy achievements as governor, that is more widely understood with more conservative support than the quixotic CCSS quest, and as a constitutional question stands on far more solid ground than his Hail Mary suit. If there’s any legal matter on which he should hang as hat as a demonstration of superior education policy-making and ability to achieve it, it should be this other suit and, politically, he should be front and center championing it.
If he’s not because he thinks or is being advised that there’s more political mileage in making the CCSS education issue so high profile almost to the exclusion of everything else, even as his pursuit appears to alienate as many in the public as his crusade attracts supporters, if he’s paying for that advice he needs to get his money back. The lane is open repeatedly to drive for the easy layup to score big buckets, yet he insists on pulling up at half court and taking nearly impossible shots. For those not appalled by his unrelenting tactics, they might admire the confidence and panache of that, but it doesn’t win games.