At an age when many of his predecessors were only just being elected governor of Louisiana, or were still in pursuit of that office in their futures, Bobby Jindal is in the curious position of a much older man — a six-year governor who is seeing the spotlight swing away as the state’s politicians look ahead to his successor’s election next year.
Yet it’s not the end for Jindal. Not by a long shot.
Those involved with state policy, among lawmakers or anyone else, should remember there is only one governor at a time.
In his opening address to the 2014 Legislature, Jindal’s agenda was not as comprehensive or as far-reaching as in the past. His remarks included introductions, a la Ronald Reagan’s speeches, of Louisianians who have returned to the state as a consequence, the governor said, of his enlightened policies.
That had an elegiac air, but much of what the governor can do deals in large part with the past, because defense wins championships in politics as on the gridiron.
Conservative blogger Jeff Sadow commented, “While a governor in his seventh year, and particularly one not wildly popular, has but a limited offensive capability, his defensive capacity remains largely unaltered.”
This should be remembered by those who see the Governor’s Office as less effective.
“It’s one thing to try to round up votes to get something done, but it’s entirely another and much easier to use the veto and other trades to stop stuff from happening,” Sadow noted.
As political science — Sadow teaches it at LSU in Shreveport — we cannot argue that point.
The governor’s remarks included modest references to workforce improvement and a few other issues facing the lawmakers. “It’s not necessarily a controversial agenda,” commented Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond. “It’s something we can all agree on, and that will be nice.”
In terms of what this Legislature absolutely must do, passing a budget remains an exercise in which Jindal’s active leadership will matter, even if as last year he is apt to enter the budget negotiations mainly as a balancer once the House and Senate pass differing versions of the state spending plans.
The governor is working the national Republican circuit with an eye to his own future, and back at home, as Sadow noted, relationships with lawmakers and the public are not as rosy as they used to be.
Nevertheless, the governor remains as powerful in his own sphere in Louisiana as the president of the United States is in a larger arena — if not more so, in Jindal’s case.
The calendar is inching inexorably toward the day when a still-young politician is former Gov. Jindal. This session, though, will require at some point an active approach to the job he still has until January 2016.