Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is understandably concerned about the future of his party, and told Politico this week he wants Republicans to "stop being the stupid party."
"We've got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything," Jindal told POLITICO in a 45-minute telephone interview. "We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys." [...]
"It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments -- enough of that," Jindal said. "It's not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can't be tolerated within our party. We've also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters."
The Louisianan added that his party should "stop reducing everything to mindless slogans, tag lines, 30-second ads that all begin to sound the same."
All of this sounds quite sensible. After years in which Republicans have mocked arithmetic, science, intellectual rigor, and the "reality-based community," there's certainly nothing wrong with a relatively high-profile figure like Jindal urging the GOP to pick up its game.
My concern, though, is the depth with which Jindal is making this appeal. His advice has superficial appeal, but the governor runs into trouble just the below the surface.
Jindal says Republicans can't simply protect the rich "so they get to keep their toys." Does that mean he's open to slightly higher tax rates on income above $250,000. Well, no, actually, he's not.
Jindal says Republicans need to appeal to a broad national audience. Does that mean he's open to more moderation on hot-button culture war issues? Well, no, actually he wants the right to soften its "tone" while keeping the exact same policy positions.
Jindal says Republicans need to make meaningful inroads with minority communities. Does that mean he's open to comprehensive immigration reform? Well, when asked, he dodged every question about his position and refused to share details about his preferred approach.
Jindal says Republicans need to stop being the party of Wall Street. Does that mean he supports tougher regulations to prevent financial industry excesses? Well, he said he's open to the "Volcker rule," but doesn't appear to understand what the rule is.
Meet the Republican Party's new idea man; he's the same as the Republican Party's old idea men.
The idea of Bobby Jindal shaking up Republican thinking, pushing the party to start being creative and serious about public policy again, is heartening, but there seems to be a disconnect between the message and the messenger.
The governor wants new ideas, but isn't comfortable with new ideas. Jindal wants his party to move past mindless rhetoric, but he just spent a year attacking President Obama with rhetoric and tactics that can generously be characterized as idiotic.
I'm all for the end of "dumbed-down conservatism," but is Jindal really prepared to lead the way?