On Friday, as Kevin Boyd noted here at the Hayride, Bobby Jindal gave a stem-winder of a speech to the Americans For Prosperity “Defending The Dream” summit. It was a fiery assault on the Republican status quo and an attack on the GOP establishment. Jindal, who has become known as an improving advocate for conservatism on the stump despite a clear sense that he lacks the gravitas of the top-tier candidates in the race and doesn’t appear to have a path to the nomination, has been seeking a foothold on issues like immigration and the civilizational conflict with Islam, not to mention a nearly ubiquitous indictment of Washington incompetence both governmental and political. Those were present in his Friday speech.
But National Review’s Kevin Williamson, who has taken special umbrage at the current criticism of open borders immigration policies among the GOP base in this cycle – he has a column up at NRO today essentially calling Donald Trump’s immigration stance a “national socialist” position – took a few pins to Jindal’s balloon on Saturday…
I like Governor Jindal, but this strikes me as curious. If Bobby Jindal is not a member of the Republican establishment, who is? He has been: secretary of the state health department in Louisiana (a job to which he was appointed at the age of 25), a member of the House of Representatives, an adviser to Tommy Thompson when he was at HHS, vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, etc. It may be that “establishment” has been redefined that way George Orwell described the redefinition of “fascism”: “the word has no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.’”
Governor Jindal has entered the bomb-throwing stage of his campaign, which is, unhappily, going nowhere; he’s at less than 1 percent in the Real Clear Politics poll average. He is at 2 percent in Iowa and doesn’t have a great deal of resources at his disposal. But, no doubt aware that blood in the water is the flavor of the month in Republican primary circles, the once-wonkish young governor is chumming the waters. The results are sometimes silly: In today’s telephone conversation, he referred to our current immigration situation as “an invasion”; he of course has a point about the crying need for assimilation, but there will no doubt be some snickers that this panicky sentiment should be pronounced by a man who missed being born in Punjab by only six months.
“We are too hung up on being politically correct,” he insists, practically taking the words out of Donald Trump’s mouth.
He had harsh words for a couple of fellow governors. Jeb Bush’s recent counsel of moderation—that a Republican should “be willing to lose the primary to win the general”—is, as Jindal sees it, a classic establishment sellout. “That’s the establishment telling us to hide our conservative views,” he says. “We don’t need a second liberal party—a cheaper Democratic party.”
He also suggests that Scott Walker doesn’t have the guts to debate him on health care, a debate that Jindal has offered on an anytime/anywhere basis. “Maybe he’s intimidated,” he says. “Maybe he’s not ready to debate,” sounding as though his intent were to run Walker’s underpants up the flagpole after school. Jindal denounces Walker’s recently revealed health-care plan as a new federal entitlement that inevitably will be paid for with new and higher taxes. And he insists that Republicans are not serious about repealing the so-called Affordable Care Act. Pointing to the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the law, Jindal proclaims: “There were folks in D.C. who were glad we lost that case.”
Maybe Republican primary voters will be persuaded that a man who has spent very nearly every day of his adult life in elected or appointed office, including a stint in a national leadership role at the RGA, is here to vex the establishment and rain fire upon its strongholds. Maybe he’ll convince them that Scott Walker is a gutless big-government man. The voters Jindal is trying to persuade with this will not need any convincing about Jeb Bush.
But he is descending into fantasy. He declared today that as president he would seek to pass a law that would charge mayors and city council members in so-called sanctuary cities with criminal offenses—as accessories—every time an illegal immigrant in their jurisdiction committed a crime. That is absurd.
On the last point Williamson is correct, of course; the proper federal remedy for sanctuary cities is to deprive them of funding and allow the consequences to bring them into line. But Jindal is seeking to draw attention to his campaign and, as Williamson says, he’s throwing bombs in an effort to do that.
We may be coming to the point at which Jindal is running out of rhetorical gas as a presidential candidate; if he doesn’t begin to show major movement soon, one wonders how he’ll be able to raise enough money to continue the campaign, and if he can’t get any traction with his current message one wonders how he’ll get any with major alterations to it.
All that said, Jindal does have a point, and Williamson is uncharitable to put it kindly in being so dismissive about the statement, that mass illegal immigration is more of an invasion considering there is no element of consent on the part of America to having its borders penetrated by so many people who are not interested in becoming citizens but merely to (1) access the welfare state and (2) earn money here to send home to Mexico or other countries. It is correct to call that an invasion; the only element lacking is a military or violent one, but on the other hand American migrants to Mexican territory in Texas were considered precisely as invaders by the Mexicans at the time and treated similarly despite having a far stronger legal claim given that so many paid the Mexican government for land upon arrival.
Much of the anti-immigration rhetoric extant within the GOP is overheated, and Donald Trump is primarily to blame for it. It’s also not wrong to see the nationalistic sentiments expressed by Trump as demagogic; Trump is nothing if not a demagogue. But the country has absorbed a million legal immigrants a year for almost a generation, and countless illegal immigrants on top of that – a majority of whom have come from Third World countries. And as Michael Walsh said, you cannot inundate the First World with the Third World without turning the First World into the Third World. Immigration, and its effects, must be managed. The public wants to see better management, and the political class simply is not offering to deliver that management.
That’s why GOP candidates, including Jindal, are scrambling to get to the right of Trump on the issue. Williamson would do well to recognize that.
His shots at Jindal don’t miss. But in the question of immigration, the winning message probably sounds a bit more like Jindal’s than Williamson’s.