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Barack Obama Economics Election 2012 Financial Crisis Jindal

Ross Douthat’s Snap Judgment

Up and coming conservative (and big Jindal fan) Ross Douthat’s snap judgment from Tuesday night of Bobby Jindal’s response to Obama’s not quite State of the Union:

If that’s the best the Right has to offer as a rebuttal to Obama, American liberalism is going to be running untouched down the field for years to come.

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Election 2012 Financial Crisis Jindal Politics The Opinionsphere

Bobby Jindal’s Soapbox (cont.)

The New York Times¬†explains what was going on with the “strings” that Bobby Jindal was complaining about on Sunday’s Meet the Press:

States that accept the stimulus money aimed at the unemployed are required to abide by new federal rules that extend unemployment protections to low-income workers and others who were often shorted or shut out of compensation. This law did not just materialize out of nowhere. It codified positive changes that have already taken place in at least half the states.

To qualify for the first one-third of federal aid, the states need to fix arcane eligibility requirements that exclude far too many low-income workers. To qualify for the rest of the aid, states have to choose from a menu of options that include extending benefits to part-time workers or those who leave their jobs for urgent family reasons, like domestic violence or gravely ill children.

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Domestic issues Election 2012 Health care Jindal

Jindal’s Health Care Reform

The wonks at ThinkProgress are impressed with the Republican up-and-comer’s plan.

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Election 2012 Jindal

Jindal 2012 (cont.)

I wouldn’t want Bobby Jindal to be president. He’s too far to the right for me and seems very sympathetic to christianism (also known as politicized “christianity”), which I find morally repugnant.

But – as a reform-minded governor of a notoriously corrupt state, as a policy wonk, and as someone who has demonstrated fine political judgment – the Republican party has many worse choices.

I do think that Jindal will have some trouble navigating his way past three political realities in the Republican party.

The first is nativism. McCain’s campaign certainly struck a nativist chord at times – and certainly that was some significant part of his electoral appeal – as the extreme remarks reported at many of his rallies attest. I do not think John McCain is personally a racist (or nativist) and I don’t believe most Republicans or McCain voters are either. But some significant percentage of McCain’s support seemed to be based at least partially on racial animus. Certainly there are racist and nativist elements in the Democratic party – and they are part of the reason it was such a struggle for Obama to gain the support of the full party. Jindal would need to face a similar task – except one complicated by the fact that the Republican party has become – especially since this past election – the party for nativists.

The second current within the Republican party that could complicate Jindal’s rise within the party is anti-elitism. Jindal might actually be able to use this anti-elitism as a tool in a general election campaign – calling on populism more easily than the more technocratic-oriented Democrats while still maintaining respectability with his expertise and knowledge. But within the party itself, expert opinion has been demonized – as David Brooks has noticed. The Bush administration itself is a demonstration of the elevation of politics over expertise – as it censored scientists in official reports and ignored even the expertise of the military in it’s ill-planned invasion or Iraq and ignored the nation-building experts at the State Department as it planned for the aftermath of the invasion.

Jindal is – by most accounts – a wonk, a expert with detailed knowledge of arcane policy matters. I don’t know how he incorporates this knowledge into his style – but if he can’t figure out how to make his point, and then, winking conclude, “You betcha” with a smile or a similar faux-folksy tic – it’ll be tough for him to win in the Republican party.

The third factor complicating Jindal’s potential in 2012 is that the Republican party has almost always gone to the next in line in nominations for the presidency.¬† How else can one explain how Gerald Ford beat out Ronald Reagan in 1976 or how Bob Dole beat all comers in 1996? It’s hard to say who is next in line to assume leadership of the Republican party today – but it’s not Jindal. A plausible case could be made for Sarah Palin, or Mitt Romney, or even Mike Huckabee.

Jindal though had the good sense to stay out of this toxic national environment for his party (h/t Andrew Sullivan):

While the official reason that Jindal took his name out of contention was his lack of a desire to leave the Louisiana governorship, there was also real trepidation within his political inner circle that Jindal might wind up as the pick – McCain was attracted to his comprehensive health-care knowledge – and be caught up in what they believed to be a less-than-stellar campaign that could pin a loss on Jindal without much ability to change or control the direction of the contest.

Although this gives Jindal an advantage in the longer term, it puts him advantage in 2012. The smart move would be for him to run for president in 2012 and aim to come up as a strong number two – and presuming a Democratic reelection, this sets him up for 2016 with national exposure and a decently long track record. Of course, if Obama’s presidency is widely seen as a disaster in 2012, Jindal might be wise to aim to win the nomination. But even then – given the difficulties of unseating a sitting president up for reelection, and the unlikelihood of the Republican party turning again to a loser of a national race – it might still make sense for Jindal to aim for 2016.

All that said – Jindal is the candidate who is the best of the field for the Republicans come 2012 – and his fight in the Republican party is one I can sympathize with.

My one non-policy concern about Jindal – from my limited knowledge – is what I understand to be his christianist politics. It seems that this is quickly becoming a requirement for a Republican aiming for national leadership – as John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson found out. But I find this conflation of religion and politics to be discomfiting – and would prefer a more libertarian-minded conservatism. Jindal’s conservatism though seems to owe more to his religious faith than his desire for limited government.

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Election 2008 McCain Politics The Opinionsphere

Jindal 2012

Over at TNR’s The Plank, they’ve begun a discussion of 2012 Republican contenders.

Bobby Jindal is one candidate who I think has the chops to truly challenge Obama if he were to run in 2012- as a reform-minded governor who has strong relationships with the conservatives and christianists in the Republican party that does not contradict his independent streak and reform instincts. McCain’s maverick streak often came at the expense of his party and especially the christianist base. But I think that Christopher Orr might be right when he points out that this campaign has hurt Jindal more than any other Republican candidates

…a large portion of the GOP’s closing argument this cycle has been to stoke white, working class fear and suspicion of the Other. The dark-skinned man with the foreign-sounding name may be a Muslim, or a socialist, or a friend of terrorists, or a racial huckster, or a fake U.S. citizen, or some other vague kind of “radical.” You may never be sure which he is (maybe all of the above), but in your gut you simply don’t “know” him the way you know the other candidates. This is not, to put it mildly, a message likely to benefit Bobby Jindal.

I don’t think this rules Jindal out. Although campaign messages and narratives have a way sinking in for partisans more than actual policy positions (see the Hillary Clinton primary voters), a good candidate, the right circumstances, and the right policy messages can counteract that (see the Hillary Clinton primary voters.)

Daniel Larison (and David Weigel over at Reason seems to agree) thinks that this the fallout from the election of Obama given the campaign McCain has run would have precisely the opposite effect Orr predicts:

…never underestimate the Republican desire to get on the high horse of anti-racism and egalitarianism, to say nothing of the even greater desire to demonstrate that they are in no way racist…

I agree with that as well – but as Larison points out – this especially applies to the “elite Republicans” and less so to the rank-and-file. I think Larison undestimates the poisonous atmosphere that is motivating much of the vicious anti-Obama rhetoric and fear though – an atmosphere that McCain and Palin decided at one point to stoke.

But what I think both miss is that – although if the VP nominee had been Jindal this time around, the Republicans would have rallied to him, because racism is not inherently Republican – by running a campaign that stokes fears of the “foreign,” the Republican party has changed.

If McCain loses – and probably if he wins, but slower – the Republican party is due for a crack-up – as all the various factions fight over what vision they have for America and for their party.

Sarah Palin is clearly a contender – representing the old-style class warfare with a new wink and nice clothes. Most of the neoconservatives will back her, at least to start the 2012 positioning.

Bobby Jindal would be the new fresh face, the reform-minded christianist with an independent streak – the closest to the McCain brand without the baggage of being labeled a traitor by much of the party. He will be the candidate of the Republican elite, the candidate of David Brooks, of Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam. He’ll be the guy whose candidacy will attempt to reform the Republican party with a new policy focus.

Mitt Romney would be the business candidate – and the one with the most chits to cash in. He’ll be the safe choice, the establishment candidate, the next in line.

Mike Huckabee would be the nice guy, the runner-up again. This time around, most prominent evangelicals will back him.

The dark horse, again, will be Newt Gingrich – who this year declined to enter the race after long and public deliberation.

And so, in 2012, the candidates would neatly divide the Republican party into old-style and reform, business and christianist. It’s hard to imagine someone other than Romney taking it with this crowd though. Jindal is the one to watch – the guy who would be able to pull the Republicans out of this most quickly.