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July 30, 2013 11:36 AM It’s the Ideology

By Ed Kilgore

I was reading an article by MoJo’s Tim Murphy this morning about Bobby Jindal’s refusal to comment on Baton Rouge Parish’s atavistic enforcement of Louisiana’s anachronistic anti-sodomy law—which has somehow survived, like Texas’ law, despite the clear contrary direction of the U.S. Supreme Court. At the top of Tim’s piece is a photo of Rick Perry with his arm around Bobby as the two men strolled along, probably on the 2012 presidential campaign trail.

It suddenly occurred to me that you’d be hard-pressed to find any significant policy differences between Perry and Jindal, even though their MSM image is wildly different. Bobby’s the smartest guy in every room, the Rhodes Scholar and Boy Genius whose regularly banal observations in national publications are invariably greeted as interesting if not earth-shaking. Perry’s the barely-graduating Aggie “yell leader” who couldn’t remember which federal agencies he wanted to shut down. Jindal, an Indian-American, is an alleged symbol of GOP diversity. Perry, a good old boy, represents the party’s bedrock honky base, the former-conservative-southern-Democrat. Bobby’s one of those cerebral “traditionalist” Catholics who wrote for the New Oxford Review. Rick’s very, very tight with the “spiritual warfare” wing of conservative evangelical Protestantism.

But if you put Jindal and Perry’s policy positions in a bag and shook ‘em up, you’d never be able to tell one from the other if you rolled ‘em out. Yes, they are in different states with different political cultures; Bobby’s damn near destroyed his political career (in Louisiana, anyway) by trying to emulate Texas’ job-creator-friendly no-income-tax fiscal environment. Perry’s in constant danger of being outflanked on the Right in Texas. But it was no accident at all that Jindal backed Perry’s 2012 presidential candidacy.

It’s a reminder that in today’s conservative movement and Republican Party, it’s all about ideology, not brains or ethnicity or even political skills. Perhaps by 2016 Perry will have discarded the dunce cap that national pundits have placed on his fine head of hair, and Jindal will have finally lost his Boy Genius rep. But the convergence that matters has already happened, and appearances aside, they are the same governor.

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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