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June 18, 2013 5:21 PM Jindal Should Have Left Well Enough Alone

By Ed Kilgore

From the mockery it’s arousing, I’m beginning to think Bobby Jindal’s Politico op-ed today (which I mocked earlier) could wind up being as big a problem for his image, at least among Beltway types, as his disastrous 2009 State of the Union response.

Here’s Josh Barro at Business Insider:

This is a big reason the Republican party can’t change. 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.
Back in Louisiana, Jindal has an approval rating of 38%. His popularity took a nosedive this year because he pushed a plan to repeal the state’s income tax and replace it with a higher and broader sales tax, which would have meant a big tax cut for the wealthy financed by higher taxes on the poor and middle class.
He had to withdraw the plan because he couldn’t get it through the legislature, even though it has a Republican majority. It was just too unpopular — the same poll that found Jindal at 38% found only 27% support for his tax plan.
Yet Jindal does not seem to have gotten the message: Voters are unimpressed with an economic agenda that claims the best way to create jobs and grow prosperity is to cut taxes on the rich.

Ezra Klein is more succinct:

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.

What’s even more revealing is that you’re not seeing the kinda “attaboys” from the conservative chattering classes for Jindal’s jeremiad that you’d expect. At National Review, Reihan Salam cites the op-ed as an example of why Bobby’s presidential stock continues to decline.

Interestingly enough, I seem to be the only gabber at this point who is noting that if you get rid of the sound bites and framing, Bobby’s specific advice to his party now isn’t that different from what he was recommending back when he was being touted as a brave “rebrander:” move as far right as you possibly can and wave your arms about it. Here’s how I described the guts of his “reframing” speech back in January:

When tied to a world-view that rules out everything that happens in Washington as either irrelevant and evil, this you don’t have to change mantra creates an endless playground for right-wing irresponsibility in the name of “principle.”
But what’s most amazing about Jindal’s speech is that it is being and will continue to be greeted as some sort of breath of fresh air when it’s devoted to some of the oldest and most shop-worn memes in American politics, up to and including the “populist” idea that “big government” is the only reason you have “big business.”
We’ll see how Jindal’s putative 2016 rivals react to this opening gambit. But he’s pretty much staked out the ground of cynical pseudo-populism as his very own.

Maybe the buzz he got from that speech convinced him he could just phone something in at Politico and peddle the same base-pandering red meat in different packaging. He should have left well enough alone, or found a substitute ghostwriter.

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.

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