Let’s give Gov. Bobby Jindal this much: When it comes to his prescription for how the national Republican Party can return to glory, he’s consistent.
That wasn’t my first reaction to his latest call to arms, published on the insider web site Politico this week. What first jumped out — to me and, judging by reaction on the Internet, to plenty of other readers — was the jarring shift in tone since Jindal first made news by urging his party to take a good, hard look in the mirror.
After last year’s election, Jindal was pretty much the first major Republican to take Mitt Romney and other failed GOP candidates to task. Stop being the stupid party, he memorably pleaded. Treat voters as adults. Compete for every vote. Don’t act like your main priority is to protect the rich and big business.
On Tuesday, he took to the Web, declared that the “season for navel-gazing” over, and turned his wrath from his allies to their shared adversaries.
“The overall level of panic and apology from the operative class in our party is absurd and unmerited,” he said. Not content to stop there, he threw in some memorable imagery.
“It’s time to stop the bedwetting,” Jindal wrote. And “let’s stop defeating ourselves, get on offense, and go kick the other guy around.” Then there was the grand finale: “In the meantime Republicans — hold fast, get smarter, get disciplined, get on offense, and put on your big-boy pants.”
As different as these two Jindal messages are, they actually have plenty in common.
No matter the target, both include the sort of provocative language that is clearly designed to get noticed.
And both, strangely enough, make the same underlying argument: That the Republican Party’s problems are not about their issues, but about how they talk about those issues.
Back when he was the don’t-be-stupid guy, for example, he chastised Republican candidates for making public statements on abortion and rape that were widely deemed insensitive and off-putting. Jindal didn’t temper his own blanket opposition to abortion even in the case of rape; his suggestion was limited to how politicians talk.
And when he distanced himself from Romney’s notorious 47 percent rant, he didn’t propose a different economic program; instead, he argued the GOP needed to better explain how its existing policies would benefit everyone.
Now that he’s talking tough and calling for his compatriots to fight for “our principles instead of against them,” he’s still not offering ideas for substantive change.
Instead, his main argument in the Politico piece is that “The American public is going to revolt against the nanny state and the leftward march of this president” — a march toward “factory-style” government that wants to “pay everyone,” ration red meat, stop trans-fats and 32-ounce sodas, tolerate pornography, label traditional marriage as “discriminatory,” keep kids in failing schools, turn health care over to government and so on.
This is not the prevailing view of many who’ve undergone the self-analysis that Jindal now says is passé .
Some other Republicans have focused not just on tone but on underlying policies. The College Republican National Committee recently issued a devastating report arguing that GOP opposition to gay marriage (which Jindal casts in the Politico piece as discrimination against “traditional marriage”) and its unforgiving stance on immigration casts the party as intolerant and rigid.
It also found that many young voters, even those with entrepreneurial aspirations, see the GOP as the party of big business and don’t believe that simply keeping taxes low will make the economy work for them.
Meanwhile, a handful of other GOP governors, even some who share Jindal’s antipathy toward President Barack Obama, have decided to accept the Affordable Care Act’s federal money to expand Medicaid. Jindal, of course, remains dug in.
More than six months after Romney’s loss, though, Jindal remains where he started, firmly in the opposite camp. “We are the conservative party in America,” he wrote. “Deal with it.”
Jindal’s also still angling to be front and center in what is bound to be an ongoing debate, whether he declares it over or not. On that, too, he’s been nothing but consistent.
Stephanie Grace can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.