“What though the field be lost? All is not lost,” wrote John Milton in Paradise Lost, and here comes Gov. Bobby Jindal to express the same sentiment.
Jindal can hardly be expected to match the poet’s turn of phrase. He does not urge “the study of revenge, immortal hate” in defiance of a victorious foe. Instead he writes, “Get on offense, and put on your big-boy pants.”
In Milton’s case the battle was between Satan and God. Jindal is seeking to rally his fellow Republicans against President Barack Obama, so the analogy is obviously imperfect. Obama is required to relinquish power after eight years.
Jindal recently blasted the GOP for turning into “the stupid party,” and now, in a Politico column, he bemoans “all these public professions of feelings of inadequacy.” He will no doubt go all-out to discover who has been undermining Republicans’ self-esteem.
Meanwhile, he invites the faithful to ignore the self-flagellating bigwigs and join him in looking on the bright side. Obama may have won twice, but he “ran a tremendous campaign in 2008 and our outgoing president was unpopular,” while Mitt Romney’s strategy last year was “an obvious mistake.” Therefore, apparently, Republicans should not blame themselves. Rather they should pat themselves on the back for retaining control of the House.
Their success in that regard suggests that this is not a stupid party at all. Democrats got well over a million more votes than Republicans in House races last year, but wound up with 33 fewer seats. Only clever tricks can explain those topsy-turvy numbers. Well, you might also call them dirty tricks, but Democrats are in no position to complain. Both parties will gerrymander at every opportunity; the Republicans just do it better, and the congressional elections of 2012 were one of their finest hours.
The Republican State Leadership Committee makes no bones about the dipsy doodle that whopped the opposition. Indeed, it issued a statement explaining how its so-called Redmap project worked. The Republicans pumped $30 million into penny-ante state legislative races in 2010 and won enough seats to ensure that congressional redistricting left Democrats at a severe disadvantage. In some states the GOP won more than 70 percent of the congressional seats with half, or less, of the vote.
This is a most cost-effective approach to democracy, removing the need for high-powered election campaigns every two years and cutting down on all that tedious debate about public policy. As RSLC President Chris Jankcowski has explained , “You can spend hundreds of millions of dollars fighting over a couple dozen congressional districts,” or you “can spend significantly less and impact the shape of those elections over 10 years via state legislative elections.”
Thus the statewide majorities that must prevail in presidential and senatorial elections may be thwarted with a shrewd adjustment of boundaries. Obama’s re-election, and the GOP’s failure to capture the Senate, left no doubt about the will of the people, and only a gerrymander could deny the Democrats the trifecta.
No wonder the RSLC is crowing. The Democrats are no doubt looking in with grudging admiration. But Jindal is fooling himself if he sees the House elections as grounds for optimism.
It was not because he doubts its ability to pull an electoral fast one that Jindal berated the GOP as “the stupid party.” His beef was with those GOP candidates in last year’s elections whose off-the-wall public pronouncements earned universal derision.
Jindal had earlier declared his own faith in exorcism and the scientific validity of creationism, but it would be unfair to infer from that that all Republicans lack a sense of irony.
In his Politico piece, however, Jindal paints the entire “left” with the same brush, setting up a straw man who believes, for instance, that “money grows on trees,” “pornography is fine,” “wild weather is a new thing” and “the IRS should violate our constitutional rights.” The GOP must be in worse shape than we thought if Democrats can win on that platform.
But their time will soon be up, according to Jindal, who predicts that voters will wise up and “revolt against the nanny state and the leftward march of this president.” Jindal evidently sees himself as a likely presidential nominee for a newly ascendant GOP. Well, he did say it’s the stupid party.
James Gill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.