Some of this may sound like standard red meat for the Right — particularly when he punctuates it with a made-for-CPAC joke: “Britney Spears is still on TV but Phil Robertson’s not! How does this make sense in our society?” But it actually represents a key shift in the terms of the GOP’s social agenda: Jindal is, ostensibly, arguing not for a Christian nation, but a diverse and open-minded one. He is framing his defense of conservative evangelicals as a call for pluralism — not exactly a rhetorical trademark of the old Religious Right.
While critics will argue that this stance is disingenuous and cynical, Jindal believes it could resonate well beyond the Republican primaries. “My hope is that there may even be folks who disagree with me on the definition of marriage, or may disagree with me on some of the more traditional social issues, but will say it’s important in American that we stand for religious liberty.”
Jindal’s vision of modern social conservatism contains other updates as well. Rather than moralizing about the pernicious evils of drug culture and the need to crack down on addicts, he has followed some of his Republican colleagues in adopting a softer — and, perhaps, more Christian — stance. He said he doesn’t favor legalization, but, “I’m absolutely in favor of making sure that, especially [for] nonviolent offenders, we’re providing drug treatment, rehabilitation, instead of just continuing to lock them up.” He added, “The reality is that I think it’s better for those individuals to get back as productive members of society.”