The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Bobby Jindal is the Republican Party’s problem

After the 2012 election, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal made a name for himself as the most eager and aggressive of the GOP's self-flagellators. Republicans have to "stop being the stupid party," he raged. They have to compete for "the 47 percent and the 53 percent," and "any other combination of numbers that adds up to 100 percent." Above all, they need to "stop insulting the intelligence of voters."

Apparently, he's changed his mind.

In Politico Tuesday, Jindal tells the Republican Party to quit doing the thing Jindal was telling them to do a few months ago and get back on the attack! "Yes, losing is painful and has consequences," he writes. "Yes, when you lose, you make adjustments. Enough already. Let’s get on with it."

Get on with what, exactly? Why, Jindal's plan for victory! Which is, well, this:

At some point, the American public is going to revolt against the nanny state and the leftward march of this president. I don’t know when the tipping point will come, but I believe it will come soon.
Because the left wants: The government to explode; to pay everyone; to hire everyone; they believe that money grows on trees; the earth is flat; the industrial age, factory-style government is a cool new thing; debts don’t have to be repaid; people of faith are ignorant and uneducated; unborn babies don’t matter; pornography is fine; traditional marriage is discriminatory; 32 oz. sodas are evil; red meat should be rationed; rich people are evil unless they are from Hollywood or are liberal Democrats; the Israelis are unreasonable; trans-fat must be stopped; kids trapped in failing schools should be patient; wild weather is a new thing; moral standards are passé; government run health care is high quality; the IRS should violate our constitutional rights; reporters should be spied on; Benghazi was handled well; the Second Amendment is outdated; and the First one has some problems too.

Jindal has gone from diagnosing what's wrong with the Republican Party to personifying it. The GOP's problem isn't that it insults the intelligence of the voters. It's that it insults its own intelligence. It's come up with a theory of liberal governance that has obviated the need for a theory of conservative governance. As Josh Barro writes at Business Insider, "So many of its members have a warped vision of what liberalism is. They think it's something so mind-bendingly awful that they cannot fathom how voters could willingly choose it. It must be some mistake. And sooner or later, mistakes get fixed."

Jindal gives Republicans some reasons to take heart. First, they have 30 governorships, which is true. Second, they "took control of the House in 2010 and held it in 2012," which is true, but omits the crucial fact that Republicans got 1.5 million fewer votes in the 2012 House elections than Democrats did. Getting fewer votes than the other guy is not necessarily a good sign for a political party, even if the idiosyncrasies of congressional apportionment protected their majority. But his big argument is that Republicans just ran a bad play in 2012. "The just completed presidential campaign strategy of playing it safe and assuming a poor economy would win it for us was an obvious mistake," he writes.

But Jindal is proposing a variant of that exact same mistake. Instead of sitting back and waiting for the economy to win the election for Republicans, Jindal's come up with a ridiculous caricature of liberalism and is assuming its failures will win the country back for conservatism. "Eventually Americans will rise up against this new era of big government and this new reign of politically correct terror," he assures Republicans. When, exactly? 'Soon," Jindal promises.

The upside of this theory is that it frees Jindal and the rest of the Republican Party from having to do the hard work of rethinking and renewing its own governing agenda. The downside of this theory is that it's utter nonsense. And the most damaging part of this theory is that it's utter nonsense aimed at Jindal's own base. Jindal isn't talking to independents or Democrats in this op-ed. This is solely about telling Republicans what they want to hear.

That's how the GOP becomes the stupid party: Republican Party elites like Jindal convince Republican Party activists of things that aren't true. And that's how the GOP becomes the losing party: The activists push the Republican Party to choose candidate decisions and campaign strategies based on those untruths, and they collapse in the light of day.