Sunday, November 9, 2008

Retooling the GOP: Change You Shouldn't Believe In

After the Tuesday night bloodbath, Republicans are doing some much needed soul searching. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, a Texas Republican, said “This is a time for us to look to ourselves and pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and become the party of ideas again.” If the two heirs apparent are any indication, those words are falling on deaf ears. Sarah Palin, of course, has a leg up with her positively bat-shit crazy Christian credentials and folksy charm. On the other hand some Republicans are looking to Louisianan Gov. Piyush Jindal (no, I’m not making this up), a 37 year old natural citizen born to Indian immigrants. The divergence in the party could not seem to be starker; one is a far right wing Christian Conservative, and the other a new face of a more inclusive Republican Party. Under closer examination, the only difference is that where the Alaskan is a simpleton, the Cajun is a polished conservative operative.

Born in 1971, Gov. Jindal, who goes by “Bobby” (which along with “Bubba” and “Skeeter” is one of only three sanctioned nicknames in Louisiana), hits all of the conservative high notes. He opposes all abortions and scores a perfect 100% by the National Right to Life Committee, has an “A” ranking from the NRA, opposes embryonic stem cell research, supports off shore drilling, supports the teaching of intelligent design, wants to make the PATRIOT Act permanent, and although he reduced earmarks from the state budget as Governor he allowed more than $30 million dollars in federal pork and ranked14th among congressman in earmarks when he represented Louisiana in the U.S. Congress. In addition, he authored a paper in the New Oxford Review detailing an exorcism that he personally witnessed. It seems the governor has his own bat-shit crazy credentials.

Governor Jindal, unsurprisingly, has been a rising star in the Republican Party; a star made even brighter with the “we got a loveable non-white guy, too” effect. He appears politically talented and has moved steadily upwards from secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare to serving as the youngest-ever president of the University of Louisiana System- all appointments by high ranking Republicans including President George W. Bush. Rumors had the young governor as a finalist for the Vice Presidential nomination before Senator McCain decided on Governor Palin.

So what’s not to love for Republicans? Shouldn’t they be rejoicing over two horses of such Conservative Christian pedigree? The short answer is that neither governor represents a shift from the ideas that got the Republican Party booted from power in the first place, or for that matter any ideas for widening the GOP tent. Governors Palin and Jindal, while sexy and exotic, are conservative standard bearers on issues Americans are becoming less concerned with and more detached from. In the end Republicans, instead of looking for new ideas and a larger tent, have gone back to their bread and butter, which is not anything new at all.

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