Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal may be the U.S. Grant of Republican politics. We can’t spare him. He thinks.
Gov. Jindal delivered a great speech to the Republican Party’s winter meeting Thursday that bears reading in full. Jindal sets up our current politics as a war of two ways of thinking: the American Way and the Government Way. Down the American Way lies prosperity through individual liberty, entrepreneurship, and limited government. Down the Government Way lies more central control over more of our lives coming at Americans from Washington. Republicans should be the party of the American Way, while Democrats are already the party of the Government Way.
We as Republicans have to accept that government number crunching – even conservative number crunching – is not the answer to our nation’s problems.
We also must face one more cold hard fact – Washington is so dysfunctional that any budget proposal based on fiscal sanity will be deemed ‘not-serious’ by the media, it will fail in the Senate, and it won’t even make it to the President’s desk where it would be vetoed anyway.
In fact, any serious proposal to restrain government growth is immediately deemed ‘not-serious’ in Washington. The Balanced Budget is deemed ‘not-serious’ in Washington.
Term Limits are deemed ‘not-serious’ in Washington. Capping federal growth by tying it to private sector economic growth is deemed ‘not-serious’ in Washington.
The truth is nothing serious is deemed serious in Washington.
This is unarguably true. Reporters swoon over Obama the celebrity, tweet “wow” at banalities, and generally run away from serious journalism. Congress doesn’t even bother to read the laws it passes. The outgoing defense secretary drops a sweeping change on the military as his last act, without any public input or discussion at all. Washington has become the Camelot of Monty Python and the Holy Grail: A silly place. But also an amoral, often sinister place as well.
Jindal went on from there to blast Barack Obama’s unseriousness when dealing with our nation’s fiscal issues. Then Jindal essentially called for Republicans to give up on being government’s manager and focus our energy elsewhere.
Instead of worrying about managing government, it’s time for us to address how we can lead America… to a place where she can once again become the land of opportunity, where she can once again become a place of growth and opportunity.
We should put all of our eggs in that basket.
Yes, we certainly do need folks in Washington who will devote themselves to the task of stopping this President from taking America so far off the ledge that we cannot get back.
We must do all we can to stop what is rapidly becoming the bankrupting of our federal government.
But we as conservatives must dedicate our energies and our efforts to growing America, to growing the American economy, to showing the younger generations how America can win the future.
That path does not lie in government. If more government were the answer, our economy would be booming right now. That path has been tried.
That’s a good thought, but an increasingly difficult one to square with the facts. Even the best-managed states, with the freest markets and the healthiest economies, may find themselves robbed and bankrupted by statist policies coming at them from Washington. Texas, for instance, lost 3,900 jobs this week because EPA regulations aborted them. The EPA in the Obama era has become a serial killer of jobs. How does one fight Washington’s reach without being in Washington or keeping tabs on what Washington is doing? Back to Jindal–
The health of America is not about government at all. Balancing government’s books is a nice goal, but that is not our primary objective.
Our objective is to grow the private sector. We need to focus our efforts on ideas to grow the American economy, not the government economy.
If you take nothing else away from what I say today, please understand this – We must not become the party of austerity. We must become the party of growth. Of course we know that government is out of control. The public knows that too. And yet we just lost an election.
Again, we cannot afford to fight on our opponents’ terms. The Republican Party must become the party of growth, the party of a prosperous future that is based in our economic growth and opportunity that is based in every community in this great country and that is not based in Washington, DC.
We have fallen into a trap of believing that the world revolves around Washington, that the economy is based there. If we keep believing that, government will grow so big that it will take us all down with it.
Aren’t we already there?
I’m not chiding Jindal here. The fact is, he may be the best governor in the nation. He is certainly in the top five. In his young life he has already accomplished more than the vast majority of us will accomplish in a lifetime.
The problems he describes are vast, as he acknowledges. The solutions are not easy. The real problem we face is that the American people may not be up to the challenge this time.
Twice now, a majority have chosen to elect a man who is not qualified for the presidency and whose ideas are proven failures. He won on excellent communications and iconography, not on his accomplishments. He ran away from his record, only to double down on it as many predicted he would once he was safely re-elected. Obama has shown the nation that not only is he incapable of uniting the nation, he is incapable of stepping outside his rigid ideology to understand the economics of the real world. Or, he understands them perfectly well and is choosing sabotage over reform. But the majority re-elected him anyway. Facing serious systemic fiscal problems, the American people had a choice between a man with a proven record of fixing such massive problems and man with a record of giving speeches and playing insult comic. The majority chose the latter. The mainstream media have fused themselves to his government and provide no adversarial check on his power. The majority of Americans are fine with this dangerous mix of media and power, and continue eating and drinking on the deck of our sinking national ship.
If the Republicans do not tell the American people about the massive problems we face, how can the Republicans ever hope to enact any remedy for those problems?
Jindal answers that “we should let the other side try to sell Washington’s ability to help the economy, while we promote the entrepreneur, the risk-taker, the self-employed woman who is one sale away from hiring her first employee.
“Let the Democrats sell the stale power of more federal programs, while we promote the rejuvenating power of new businesses.”
Most Americans have no entrepreneurial spirit and have no idea how wealth is created. Our schools eschew basics for politically correct studies that prepare no one for the real world. The participation rate just in the labor market is at a historic low. Welfare has pushed into the middle class in record numbers. The Democrats have sold the stale power of more federal programs, but unfortunately millions of Americans bought into it. This has fundamentally changed the American political landscape.
I’m not denouncing Jindal or the American people here. I am denouncing the Obama government for inheriting a bad temporary economic situation and making it so much worse and more permanent that it may be impossible to fix without us enduring very serious pain. Someone has to sound the alarm.
Later in the speech, Jindal outlines seven things the GOP must do going forward. They are:
- Stop looking backward, and show what a freer American can become going forward.
- Compete for every single vote.
- Reject identity politics, and get voters to like you by showing that you like them.
- Stop being the stupid party, defined by the likes of Akin and Mourdoch.
- Stop insulting the intelligence of voters, and stop dumbing down our ideas into soundbites and taglines.
- Quit “big,” stop supporting big business, big banks, etc. and clearly stand as a populist party.
- Focus on real people outside of Washington, not the lobbyists and government inside Washington.
These points are fine, but some miss the mark in our unserious, TMZ, Kim Kardashian, Manti Te’o-obsessed age. The left takes advantage of identity politics to create tribes that are loyal to it and now vote purely based on gender and skin color. That’s simply a fact. It’s also a fact that most on the left care far less about the outcome of a policy than the party or intentions behind it. The fact that gun-control laws do not stop gun violence, for instance, makes no difference in their zeal to push more gun-control laws. The fact that that the Affordable Care Act is not really about health care and does not make it more affordable does not matter to them at all. They meant well, or they got more of the power they sought. Meanwhile the right divides itself and often one faction is trying to kick another out of the overall movement. The media will depict the GOP as the stupid party no matter what. If they did it to Ronald Reagan, and they did, they will do it to Bobby Jindal and every other Republican given less than half a chance. The task is to be ready for it and fight it effectively. As for point five, it’s simply a fact that it’s nearly impossible to get most people to care about serious issues. Ideas have to be distilled to soundbites so they have a chance of cutting through the noise and motivating a response. That’s not always “dumbing down;” often it’s sharpening up. A five-second quip or tweet that’s on target can cut through and win an argument when a more detailed answer can cause audiences to zone out. I’m saying that we need both, the details and the sharp summaries, to have any chance of getting through.
But Jindal is right in the main: The Republicans have to find ways to fight Washington while not becoming creatures of Washington. We need to become smarter in how we handle the hostile media. We need to encourage Americans to expect less from government and more from themselves.
The question is, are we too far gone for such a message to resonate?