The Paradoxical Bobby Jindal
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 09:21:25 AM EST
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been in the news for  calling on Republicans to "stop being the stupid party."  Paradoxically, the young governor may embody the stupidity he wants his party to get over.
Jindal's views are not only more strident than those of Republican presidential candidates, but he has been the driving force behind legislation that is often either economically regressive or impinges on the religious freedom of many of his fellow Catholics.

He is a convert from Hinduism to Catholicism, but often sounds more like an Evangelical Protestant. He presents himself as a populist, but he is attempting to shift his state's tax burden onto the poor and middle classes. He is an Ivy Leaguer who attended Brown University on a Rhodes scholarship, but he claims that universities are "modern centers of higher learning [that] are much more secular and skeptical toward anything remotely religious."

Nevertheless, he is a prominent part of the changing of the guard within both the GOP and the Religious Right. Theocons Charles Colson and John Neuhas have passed on. Karl Rove and Sarah Palin have been dismissed from Fox News. Rick Santorum may appeal to both conservative Catholics and Evangelicals, but only among middle-aged Whites and is prone to unattractive snarling. Their places are gradually being taken by New Jersey governor Chris Christie, U.S. Senator and Floridian Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and of course, Jindal.

All these Young Turks have their strengths and weaknesses. With the possible exception of Christie (who believes in global warming), they are all full-blown social movement conservatives, ironically marrying a form of Ayn Rand economics to their Christianity. Still Rubio's immigration tale may not play well in a rough and tumble election while Ryan's credibility took some hits while serving as Romney's running-mate.  

Jindal has some strengths going into 2016, including a 100% voting rating the National Right to Life Committee while being opposed to embryonic stem cell research. At 41 he is young, more reliably social conservative than Mitt Romney and is a person of color when the GOP seems to need one.

But the paradoxical Jindal may not wear well.

In June 2008 as governor he signed into law The Louisiana Science Education Act which allows for the teaching of creationism in the public schools of his state. This is odd for someone who claims to strictly adhere to Catholicism. The Vatican, after all, is on record strongly acknowledging evolution while practically dismissing creationism.  Catholic Update  reported in 2007:

It is worth noting that in all of the major court challenges to creationism, Roman Catholic scholars-biblical specialists, theologians and scientists- have been witnesses against creationism and the fundamentalist understanding of intelligent design.

But more important than being at odds with church doctrine is the chilling effect it has on religious freedom. Creationism is not science but the religious teaching of one narrow sector of Christianity.   Is it that Jindal is trying to cement his credentials as a neoconservative Neuhaus-type Catholic who appeals to theocratic Evangelicals? Or is it possible that he is a convert in the mode of Scott Hahn, a former Presbyterian turned Opus Dei Catholic who habitually mentions evolution and atheism in the same breathe and has written, "Whatever the merits of evolutionary theory in general - and they are significant and therefore need to be carefully considered by Catholics - the effect on morality is devastating."

It is hard to know where Jindal really stands.

Consider his 2008 appearance on CBS's Face The Nation.  When asked whether he believed in evolution, he never truly answered the question. He calmly straddled the fence so as to avoid offending fundamentalists but avoiding criticizing Darwin's theory. While he may (or may not) quietly believe in evolution, he is still willing to let one specific religious view to be taught under the guise of science. Perhaps this muddled messaging is what Jindal means by not being "the party of stupid."

Jindal seems to be repackaging the same social conservative movement messages while using faith to advance a regressive economic agenda.  But he is much smoother than the crusty older guard. We see this in his plan to replace Louisiana's progressive income tax with a regressive sales tax. He knows that the average citizen sees paying income taxes annually in thousands of dollars, but may experience sales taxes in smaller bites without seeing the dollars add up.  Jindal is the master of this illusion. He is masking a tax cut for corporations and wealthy individuals while actually raising taxes on the lower 80%.

It is Jindal's ability to sell this magic with a smile that may let him overcome the paradoxes that block his path to the White House.


Jindal has almost completely dismantled and privatized key segments of Louisiana government and services including:

--the prison system (now largely privatized)
--higher education (in 2014, most Louisiana high school graduates will no longer be eligible for admission to its 4-year schools; black students in particular will be diverted to its horrifically underfunded and underdeveloped community colleges... some areas don't even have one.  LSU is on the verge of being completely privatized except in name only, and the public HBCUs are near collapse.)
--health and hospitals (Medicaid, or at least the fraction that Louisiana allows its poorest residents to be eligible for, is now fully privatized.  The LSU indigent hospitals are currently being privatized, with most services being taken over by for profit hospitals)
--primary and secondary education (see above)

I'm sure there are others I've missed.

It truly is more in line with Objectivism than anything remotely Christian IMO.

Here he doesn't sell his magic with a smile but with a form of fake populism that evokes a bizarro Huey Long where the chickens are being taken out of (almost) everyone's pot and a rapid-fire psudo-technocratic delivery.

He has been wildly successful in realizing his agenda.  Louisiana may never recover.  We are almost back to what the state was like before Long... well except for the unfettered gubernatorial power that Jindal exercises, like Long did.

BTW, evangelicals LOVE Jindal (now).  He lost his first election because northern LA whites were more comfortable with a white Cajun female democrat than a second generation Indian-American ultraconservative (based on a post-election study of LA voters).  But since he lost that first election he spent a lot of time politicking in white Northern LA evangelical churches.  They now comprise his strongest base.

As much as I can't wait for his governorship to end (although seeing Vitter in the wings doesn't give me a warm happy feeling inside) the last thing I'd want is to unleash this very dangerous ideologue on the rest of my fellow Americans.  Politically, he is extremely savvy and anyone whose political leanings are left of the dinosaurs discount this man at their peril.  Ditto with anyone who values TRUE religious freedom.

by ulyankee on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 10:59:57 AM EST

Jindal would dismantle the social contract and invoke God while screwing those of us who have to work for a living. He is Louisiana's answer to Dinesh D'Souza with a dorky grin pasted on his face.

by khughes1963 on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 06:34:04 PM EST
D'Souza is a (former) college president who "resigned" in disgrace and is not currently in a position to do much additional damage, especially not in public policy.  Wish I could say the same for Jindal.  Even if his term ended today it will take decades to undo what he has done here... and that is assuming the legislation he has spearheaded gets repealed.  He has already starved the state of billions in revenue in order to shrink the size of government, and that was BEFORE he announced his most recent plan to replace income tax with increased sales taxes.

If you are interested, ook up the Stelly plan which was a short lived attempt in Louisiana to ensure there would be sufficient funds to build its educational infrastructure.  The Stelly Act was designed to cushion higher education from statutory mid-year budget cuts by ensuring that enough tax revenue would be collected every year to fund higher education.  Higher education and public health are the only areas not shielded from mid-year cuts, and as a result they were perpetually underfunded.  Higher ed budgets didn't even keep pace with SREB averages which are already lower than the national averages.  Stelly gave us a grand total of two years at the SREB average before Jindal got elected.  One of the first things Jindal did was repeal Stelly.

As I predicted here a few years back, this would cause one of the few groups inclined to be critical of Jindal, higher ed faculty, to either leave the state or go silent to keep their jobs.  That has indeed happened, especially at LSU.

While Jindal is a neoconservative Catholic, he appears to mirror neo-Puritan views on the three "spheres" of government... self or family government, church government, and a very limited civil government.  In this worldview, Christians and self/family government are under the authority of (1) fathers and (2) the church.  Non-Christians (which includes Christians who don't go along with this narrow definition of Christianity BTW) are under the authority of a very restricted civil government, which includes privatized prisons, limited and increasingly privatized schools, and only the most meager of social services.  So either you are in the "church" and/or have money... or you are out of luck.

by ulyankee on Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 03:47:10 PM EST

"marrying a form of Ayn Rand economics to their Christianity"

Based on the attitudes they express and the treatment they give to others, I think that they're replacing Christianity (except for the names) with Ayn Rand economics (and her attitudes as well, the exception being she was an atheist).

If anything, they're marrying her economics to false stereotypes and aspects of old-school Calvinist theology, which have been existent and even dominant in this country since the Pilgrims.

by ArchaeoBob on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 10:23:07 AM EST

The Biblical language is never marrying - when talking about bringing outside philosophy into the "Hebrew Cultic Worship" - the Biblical terms involved with whoring and harlotry. Marriage was a sacred term used carefully.

by chaplain on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 08:11:13 AM EST

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