Jindal at CPAC: Be the Party of More

I must confess to being a longtime fan of Gov. Bobby Jindal, having written to defend him even in his darkest hour— the day after his State of the Union response. He’s a smart guy who’s overcome cultural and political obstacles to be elected a second-term governor Louisiana with 66 percent of the vote in a race with nine opponents. But mostly I like that he’s demonstrably made Louisiana a better place to live and work.

I wish he’d talked more about that today. Jindal’s speech to CPAC was not a stemwinder or designed to be a crowd pleaser. It was more of an overview and light critique of the movement, in the style of a Mitch Daniels more than a Rick Perry. I like those kinds of speeches, though they’re sometimes better read than delivered. Jindal started off by reading a few of his Gridiron Dinner jokes, confessing that he was pilfering from himself but acknowledging the crowd might like something different after CPAC’s 70 political speeches.

The thrust of his speech, which some read as a contrast if not a rebuke to Paul Ryanism, is that focusing on the everyday crises of Washington, D.C. and the budget numbers too much is playing entirely on the opponent’s turf, conceding the idea that the nation runs on Washington and the capital is the hub of its existence. Instead, Jindal suggests focusing on the real economy of America, not the “phony economy” of Washington. I actually think the two can easily be complementary, and that educating people about how out of hand Washington is is part of turning them on to the idea of getting it out of their lives. But he’s right about falling into this uninspiring trap:

If our vision is to better manage the disaster that is the federal government, you can count me out. I won’t sign up for that. (I don’t want to) slow-manage the decline of America. That’s why we have Democrats.

Yes, the message must be more than that, even while it educates on Washington’s failings. “We’re not going to simply win elections by pointing out the failures of the other side,” he said. Jindal’s pitch today: Be the party of MORE. Democrats only offer more government, but we offer more prosperity, bigger American dreams, more success for everyone.

I assume the contrast he’s subtly drawing with Ryan will become complete nearer to 2016 when Jindal finishes his pitch by touting the successes in the “real economy” of himself and other Republican governors across the country. The speech didn’t quite make that landing today, mentioning school choice in Louisiana only briefly, but I look forward to hearing more in the future.