I didn't catch Obama's speech, but I heard most of Bobby Jindal's. You don't need me to tell you that Jindal is a smart guy - a Rhodes Scholar, like Bill Clinton - and his efforts to reform the endemic corruption of Louisiana are to be applauded. To get this out of the way: if we're honest we'll admit that in the back of our minds, some of us are suspicious that there's a reason that we suddenly have Michael Steele and Bobby Jindal as the faces of the GOP at the same time our first black president won in a near-landslide.
I sure hope that's not the reason. As Jindal himself stated, the GOP needs to regain Americans' trust, and that's not going to be done by a conversion to diversity values. Jindal's speech called for a return to core Republican values of fiscal responsibility and innovation, both the reasons that I frequently vote GOP,
as long as it's not running deluded religious extremists.
Which brings me to the GOP in 2012. Long ago, in April 2008, I posted a list of good guys and bad guys who could affect my decision to vote for John McCain, who I dearly hoped would be able to drag the GOP back to its core values of reason, innovation, self-reliance, and fiscal conservatism, and away from fundameantalists who think that book-learnin' is bad, and Charles Darwin is the devil. Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal were both bad guys. Note to culture conservatives: China is teaching their kids evolution, not creation, and they're trouncing us in the production of scientists and engineers, that our economy and military establishment depend on. If that's a-okay with you, then please stop calling yourself pro-America, and move to Iran where your views are more widely accepted.
It was clear that Jindal's speech had two intended audiences: the rank-and-file voter, and the slightly more discriminating Washington Post and blog crowd that you and I can count ourselves part of. It was critical not only that he gets the man and woman in the street talking about him, but the literati opinion-drivers talking about some of his more clever rhetorical tricks - of which there were many. And that's the problem.
The problem is that if you're selling a platform that really does appeal on its face to a majority of Americans, you don't have to make unstated implications that the current administration is severely cutting the armed forces. You don't, for example, have to talk about innovation when in fact you've openly declared your intention to wreck science education. Jindal may be a new kind of face for Republicans, but he's spouting the same message that got the Grand Old Party sh*t-canned in the 2008 election. The "purest" culture-conservative message the GOP has ever put out in a presidential campaign was in 2008, largely through its VP candidate, and the only place it expanded its vote was among white males in a strip from West Virginia to Oklahoma. Is that the future of America? That's why, if you want a real choice in 2012 and a close election, you should hope that Bobby Jindal is far away from the GOP ticket.