Political Animal


January 25, 2013 1:22 PM Stupid Is As Stupid Does

By Ed Kilgore

It’s not taking anyone much time to figure out exactly what Bobby Jindal was talking about in his Great Big Defining Speech at an RNC meeting last night when he said Republicans should “stop being the stupid party” and referenced “bizarre and offensive comments” being made by unnamed candidates. Slate’s Dave Weigel is all over it:

Jindal’s Sermon on Gaffes assumes that the audience still blames Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” tape for his defeat, and blames Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment for blowing the key Senate races. Sure: Both were huge, inarticulate mistakes. Romney’s spitballing about makers and takers was in line with contemporary Republican theories about the tax code and the entitlement state, and Jindal doesn’t back off from them, either. “Where do you go if you want a handout?” he asks. “Government. This must stop.” He doesn’t mention entitlement spending except to call for “re-thinking nearly every social program in Washington.”
Akin’s gaffe was even more explicable. He believes that life starts at conception, and he’s against abortion in cases of rape. Jindal doesn’t talk about abortion at all, except to accuse liberals of “supporting abortion on demand without apology.” But in practice, he’s signed restrictions on abortion, requiring women to see ultrasounds and hear fetal heartbeats before they terminate their pregnancies. Following a 2012 law signed by Jindal, a woman can only opt out of the ultrasound results if she affirms in writing that she was raped or the victim of incest. But Jindal doesn’t go around talking about it.

Bingo. Saying “bizarre and offensive” things can often be just a matter of poorly articulating bizarre and offensive policies. And if they are so bizarre and offensive that they can’t be made attractive, then the idea is to follow Kellyanne Conway’s advice and just refuse to talk about it, which seems to be the brave “reformer” Bobby Jindal’s guidance as well. If you can’t avoid stupid policies, then at least have the good sense to STFU about them.

I do differ with Dave Weigel on one thing, however: he suggests Jindal was being vague and evasive on the subject of entitlement programs. That’s true in terms of the specifics that Bobby said GOPers need to embrace to avoid “dumbing down” their message. But Jindal did very clearly say that in terms of domestic programs Republicans should favor either abolishing or turning over to the states via block grants (typically meaning limited money with only the broadest limitations on how it is used) everything it does. If the Boy Genius is saying what he means, that is very, very radical, my friends.

And that brings me to another good observation, by Jamelle Bouie writing at WaPo’s Plum Line:

[The speech] positioned Jindal as a reform-minded outsider: “Washington has spent a generation trying to bribe our citizens and extort our states,” Jindal said. “As Republicans, it’s time to quit arguing around the edges of that corrupt system.”
But there’s just little in the way of “reform” here — after all, he has no interest in actually moderating the party’s conservatism. This highlights a larger problem: There aren’t any real “reformers” in the GOP.
Jindal himself embodies the same right-wing policies that sank Mitt Romney and damaged the GOP’s appeal to middle and working-class Americans….
The fact of the matter is there are no real reformers among the leadership class of the Republican Party. Not Bobby Jindal. Not Marco Rubio (who, despite his feints in the direction of immigration reform, is hewing to the NRA line on guns). And not Paul Ryan (who will soon be submitting a budget that supposedly wipes away the deficit in 10 years, with no new revenues, which would require savage and deep cuts to government programs that help the poor and elderly). At most, these leaders offer a whitewash: Underneath all the new rhetoric of change and inclusiveness lurk the same unpopular policies and priorities skewed in favor of the rich and against the middle class and poor.
Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Josef K on January 25, 2013 1:59 PM:

    What leaves me saddest here is that these clods are still going to get re-elected to their seats, possibly pick up new ones, and equally possibly retake the White House in four years time.

    Not the country that I want to leave my children, or anyone's children come to it.

  • DRF on January 25, 2013 2:06 PM:

    The notion that all Federal programs would be better run by the states has always struck me as idiotic. Most state governments are incompetently run, significantly more corrupt than the Federal government and frequently underfunded because of balanced budget requirements. Granted, there are some local differences that should be accomodated, and state policy-making is a good way to experiment with ideas, programs, etc., but for the most part relying on 50 different states to implement policies is better suited for a 19th Century country.

  • jjm on January 25, 2013 2:29 PM:

    All I can say is that I AM SO GLAD TO BE LIVING IN CALIFORNIA WITH ITS BRILLIANT, EDUCATED AND VISIONARY DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR, JERRY BROWN! Contrast his inspiring State of the State address yesterday with the low intelligence displayed by Jindal and really all the GOPers and you'll see.

  • Peter C on January 25, 2013 2:33 PM:

    I agree @DRF. It isn't as if the states themselves are radically different from each other for any justifiable reason. I've lived in 5 different states so far, and I don't think my experience is at the edge of the distribution. The 'laboratories of democracy' argument still should involve standardizing the best practices uncovered in these 'state-sized labs' over the whole country if there is to be any advantage to the country of the strategy.

  • c u n d gulag on January 25, 2013 2:42 PM:

    There's a reason why there aren't any Conservative or Rpubublican reformers.

    Republicans are in a national political death spiral because of their Manichean followers.

    And you know what you call a reformer in a Manichean environment?

    A martyr - for change no one believes in, or wants.
    And if not physically, then politically.

    Hence, all they're capable of proposing, is rebranding - aka: polishing the same turds, and putting lipstick on pigs.
    To do otherwise, is political suicide.

    Todays Conservative followers became Republicans, because they were drawn by their already Manichean outlook - and then, they proceeded to make that outlook even more Manichean.

  • mark D on January 25, 2013 4:24 PM:

    Stop being stupid? It was Jindal who cleverly picked a moment shortly before a significant air-traffic interrupting volcanic blast to utter, "We don't need no stinkin' volcano observatories!" And how much has he supported anti-science bills, wishing to teach religion-as-science in Louisiana?

  • MuddyLee on January 25, 2013 4:43 PM:

    Most of the policies republicans advocate would hurt most of the people who actually vote for republicans. Why are so many republican voters so easily deluded by their own party? Why do they believe in trickle down economics for example? I can understand how stupidity and racism are factors, but that doesn't explain it all.

  • Mitch on January 25, 2013 5:31 PM:


    Stupidity, hypocrisy, racism, religion, directionless rage, peer pressure and the conservative media that plays on it all. That pretty much sums it up.

    As a child of the South, I experienced all of these.

    Stupidity: Imagining that Red Dawn is realistic, for example. Or that Wal-Mart is great because it sells low priced goods. Total ignorance of science, technology, history or something as simple as cause and effect.

    Hypocrisy: When the Dixie Chicks question George W. Bush, they become pariahs and are called un-American traitors. Ted Nugent comes a nanometer from calling for the assassination of Obama, and he's a patriot. Dubya and company blow off all warnings prior to 9/11 and it's "/shrug" from the conservatives. Four folks are killed in Benghazi and, well, I think we all saw the GOP reaction to that. "Deficits don't matter." The Patriot Act is totally okay, but reasonable gun control measures are fascism. I could go on all day.

    Racism: Self-explanatory, but not necessarily the only -ism that matters (sexism, nationalism, etc). One of the defining features of conservatism (of all varieties) is that Those Who are Different are Bad.

    Religion: Varies by denomination, but at minimum Gays and Abortion are EVIL. If the church tells you that Democrats are godless, socialist, heathens, then you are going to believe it. Most folks DO NOT question what they hear in their church/mosque/temple/whatever. Also, I am of the opinion that certain types of religious instruction ruin peoples ability to think critically about, well, anything.

    Directionless Rage: A huge problem in rural America. They "know" that life used to be better than it is right now (although they are usually utterly ignorant about history). Even so, they do have reasons to feel anger. If you aren't white collar, then good luck paying your bills; but the sad truth is that there will never be enough white-collar jobs to support the nation, nor is everyone fit for such a job. So people are poor, helpless and overwhelmed. This naturally makes people angry.

    Peer Pressure: In much of the country there is One Way to act/think/believe, and if you don't fit in, then you are outcast. Some folks (like me) can shrug off such petty nonsense, but most people can't. They need to be accepted by their peers. And if all of your peers are crude, angry, racist/sexist or whatever, then you are much more likely to become that way yourself.

    Conservative Media: Fox News, Limbaugh and company are constantly reinforcing ignorance, hyping religious nonsense (War on Christmas!), stoking rage (THOSE PEOPLE are taking your hard earned money & jobs) and in short doing everything possible to get people so mad that they will never even consider looking at things from a different point of view. The right wing media plays their constituency like a harp from hell. Instead of blaming corporate greed for the death of the middle class, they blame brown people and taxes. And thanks to all of that peer pressure, the people want to hear what conservative media is saying to them.

    Humans, in general, don't like to question their own views. Add dogmatism (social, political and religious), the taint of racism, and the unflagging superiority felt by "Real 'Murcans" and—voila—you have conservative America. Wrong about nearly everything for decades, hypocritical in every single aspect, and absolutely sure that they are correct.

    The worst part? I can see no way to end this. The GOP will do it's damnedest to prevent the Dems from doing anything positive. And if the Dems manage to do something good, then the GOP will either demonize it (ACA) or take credit for it (Clinton's budget surplus). If the GOP gains total control and bankrupts the nation (again), then it will just be a rerun of the past 12 years or so. The 27% and those who play them for fools are probably not going away any time soon.

    FSM help us all.

  • TCinLA on January 26, 2013 2:13 PM:

    And Jindal says all this while cutting Medicaid for those who need hospice care and defunding betered women's shelters because of a "lack of resources."