Bobby Jindal's Dumbed-Down Conservatism

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 6 2012 9:10 AM

Bobby Jindal's Dumbed-Down Conservatism

METAIRIE, LA - AUGUST 28: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal shakes hands with a pump station worker during an update on the status of the pumping station at the 17th Street Canal during Hurricane Isaac on August 28, 2012 in Metairie, Louisiana. Hurricane Isaac is expected to make landfall along the Louisiana coast later today.. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Shortly after the election. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal talked to Politico's Jonathan Martin about the "dumbed-down conservatism" that had sunk the GOP. There would be punishment, of some unspecified sort, for candidates who made gaffes. The party would get specific about Real Solutions for Winning the Future.

Calling on the GOP to be “the party of ideas, details and intelligent solutions,” the Louisianan urged the party to “stop reducing everything to mindless slogans, tag lines, 30-second ads that all begin to sound the same. “

One month later, Jindal returns to Politico with an op-ed about the sort of Republican ideas for reform "which would be worth fighting for in this fiscal cliff diving exercise." They are: a balanced budget amendment ("small businesses have to balance their budgets, and families have to do the same"), a cap on spending to 18 percent of GDP, a 2/3 majority for any tax increase, and term limits. As much of this as possible should be linked to a debt limit hike that's "one-time, limited, and accompanied by structural reform."

These are not new ideas. They're dumbed-down ideas. The first three proposals were all part of Cut, Cap, and Balance, the first and most important conservative-led Republican ransom note on the debt limit. These proposals passed in the House and died in the Senate. No one who paid attention to that manufactured crisis, and how it ended, could look at the incoming, more-Democratic Congress and say "oh, let's see what these guys think of Cut, Cap, and Balance!" Democrats opposed spending caps and the BBA-with-supermajority-for-tax-hikes because they see no way to enforce that stuff without cutting entitlements. Republicans are wavering on the sequester, which gets us closer to that spending goal, because they realize you need some flexibility on spending in an economic doldrum. Jindal's just tossing that to the wind, in a profoundly clueless way.

What's the strategy behind this op-ed? Let's assume, for the next two years or so, that every Republican governor weighing in on national policy in national magazines is thinking about 2016. Fine. What's Jindal suggesting to Republicans? Because the president's first offer on the "fiscal cliff" was largely progressive, Republicans should respond with a microwaved version of their 2011 offer?

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics


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